More Americans Than People in Other Advanced Economies Say COVID-19 Has Strengthened Religious Faith

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Nearly three-in-ten U.S. adults say the outbreak has boosted their faith; about four-in-ten say it has tightened family bonds

Americans most likely to say pandemic has made their religious faith stronger. As the corona virus pandemic continues to cause deaths and disrupt billions of lives globally, people may turn to religious groups, family, friends, co-workers or other social networks for support. A Pew Research Centre survey conducted in the summer of 2020 reveals that more Americans than people in other economically developed countries say the outbreak has bolstered their religious faith and the faith of their compatriots.
Nearly three-in-ten Americans (28%) report stronger personal faith because of the pandemic, and the same share think the religious faith of Americans overall has strengthened, according to the survey of 14 economically developed countries.
Far smaller shares in other parts of the world say religious faith has been affected by the corona virus. For example, just 10% of British adults report that their own faith is stronger as a result of the pandemic, and 14% think the faith of Britons overall has increased due to COVID-19. In Japan, 5% of people say religion now plays a stronger role in both their own lives and the lives of their fellow citizens.
Majorities or pluralities in all the countries surveyed do not feel that religious faith has been strengthened by the pandemic, including 68% of U.S. adults who say their own faith has not changed much and 47% who say the faith of their compatriots is about the same.
Some previous studies have found an uptick in religious observance after people experience a calamity. And a Pew Research Centre report published in October 2020 showed that roughly a third (35%) of Americans say the pandemic carries one or more lessons from God.
When it comes to questions about strength of religious belief, the wide variation in responses across countries may reflect differences in the way people in different countries view the role of religion in their private and public lives.

European countries experienced rapid secularization starting in the 19th century, and today, comparatively few people in Italy (25%), the Netherlands (17%) or Sweden (9%) say that religion is very important in their lives. East Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea have low rates of religious affiliation and observance – at least by Western-centric measures.
The United States recently has experienced some trends toward secularization, including a growing share of the population that does not identify with any religion and a shrinking share of people who say they regularly attend a church or other house of worship. Still, religion continues to play a stronger role in American life than in many other economically developed countries. For example, nearly half of Americans (49%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 20% in Australia, 17% in South Korea and just 9% in Japan.
Many in countries hit hard by COVID-19 say the pandemic has tightened family bonds. In nearly every country surveyed, those who say religion is very important in their lives are more likely to say both their own faith and that of their compatriots has grown due to the pandemic. Americans’ greater proclivity to turn to religion amid the pandemic is largely driven by the relatively high share of religious Americans (In several countries, those who say religion is somewhat, not too or not at all important to them personally are less likely take a clear position either way on how their faith has been affected by the pandemic.)
Religion is just one of many aspects of life that have been touched by the pandemic. Family relationships, too, have been affected by lockdowns, economic turmoil and the consequences of falling ill. Many in countries that were hit hard by initial waves of infections and deaths in the spring say their family relationships have strengthened. That is the case in Spain (42%), Italy, the UK and the U.S. (41% each). In the U.S. and in several other countries, younger adults are especially likely to say they feel a stronger bond with immediate family members since the start of the pandemic.
These are among the findings of a Pew Research Centre survey conducted June 10 to Aug. 3, 2020, among 14,276 adults in 14 countries.
Americans most likely to say COVID-19 bolstered religious faith, though majorities around world see little change
Majorities say corona virus has not changed their religious faith much In 11 of 14 countries surveyed, the share who say their religious faith has strengthened is higher than the share who say it has weakened. But generally, people in developed countries don’t see much change in their own religious faith as a result of the pandemic.

A median of 10% across 14 developed countries say their own religious faith has become stronger as a result of the corona virus outbreak, while a median of 85% say their religious faith had not changed much.
Among the countries surveyed, the U.S. has by far the highest share of respondents who say their faith has strengthened, with about three-in-ten holding this view.
By contrast, in Spain and Italy, two of Western Europe’s more religious countries, roughly one-in-six people say their own religious faith has grown due to the pandemic.
In Canada, 13% say their religious faith has become stronger because of COVID-19. And in other countries surveyed, one-in-ten or fewer report deeper faith due to the corona virus outbreak.
People who prioritize religion are more likely to say COVID-19 strengthened their religious faith The pandemic has led to the cancellation of religious activities and in-person services around the world, but few people say their religious faith has weakened as a result of the outbreak. Across the countries surveyed, a median of just 3% say their own religious faith has decreased, including 4% in the U.S. In South Korea, 9% say their personal faith has become weaker as a result of the corona virus outbreak, making it the country where people are most likely to hold this view.
Perceptions about the pandemic’s influence on faith are tied to people’s own levels of observance – those who are more religious are more likely than their less religious compatriots to say COVID-19 has strengthened their faith and that of others in their country.
In Spain, for example, 49% of those who say religion is very important in their lives say their own religious faith has been bolstered because of the pandemic, compared with 6% among those who say religion is less important. A similar pattern occurs in the U.S.: 45% of those who say religion is very important in their lives say the pandemic has made their faith stronger, compared with 11% who consider religion less important. Overall, 24% of Spanish adults say religion is very important in their lives, as do 49% of Americans.

Wealth and education also play a role: In some countries, people with lower incomes and less education are somewhat more likely than others to say the pandemic has bolstered their religious faith.
People with lower incomes more likely to say corona virus boosted their faith When it comes to income, the largest gaps appear in the U.S. and Spain, where people at or below the national median income are 12 percentage points more likely than the rest of the population to say their religious faith has become stronger. There are also significant differences by income group in Canada, Italy, the UK, the Netherlands, France, South Korea and Japan.
People with less education are significantly more likely than those with a secondary education or higher to say their personal religious faith has deepened in five of the countries surveyed: Spain (those with less education are 11 points more likely to say this), Italy (8 points), the U.S. (7 points), France (5 points) and Japan (3 points).
There are few differences on this question by gender, even though women are generally more religious than men, particularly in Christian-majority countries. Two exceptional cases in this survey are Italy and South Korea, where women are more likely than men to report that their faith has been bolstered by the pandemic.

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