A new Gallup poll reveals that three out of ten Americans believe the Bible to be the actual word of God, to be interpreted literally, word for word. These results are relatively consistent with recent results, but down from the peak levels in 1980 and 1984 when 40 percent of Americans said they took the Bible literally.
Respondents to the poll were given three options as responses to the poll:
- The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.
- The Bible is the inspired word of God, but not everything in it should be taken literally.
- The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts.
While 30 percent responded that the Bible is the actual word of God, a clear plurality of 49 percent preferred the second interpretation, and 17 percent believe the Bible to be a book of fables and legends.
A further breakdown of the poll's numbers reveals a few potential correlations, most of them probably predictable to many.
A majority (54 percent) of those who attend church on a weekly basis said they believe the Bible to be the literal word of God. This compares with only 16 percent of those who say they seldom or never attend church services.
Responses to the poll also shifted drastically when sorted by levels of education. Of those with a high school diploma or less, 46 percent say they take the Bible literally, while only 16 percent of those with a postgraduate degree align with this view.
Also of note may be the clear majority of Catholics (65 percent) who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God but should not be taken literally word for word, and the clear disparity between the percentages of Republicans (6 percent) and Democrats (24 percent) who believe the Bible is a book of fables, legends and history.