Poll: U.S. values religion

Religion is much more important to Americans than people in other wealthy countries, according to an international poll released Thursday that found the United States is more spiritually akin to many developing nations.

In the United States, 59 percent of poll respondents said religion was “very important” in their lives.

That was well above the numbers for other industrialized nations including Britain (33 percent), Canada (30 percent), Italy (27 percent), South Korea (25 percent), Germany (21 percent), Japan (12 percent) and France (11 percent).

The poll was sponsored by the Washington-based Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which previously issued data comparing 44 nations’ political attitudes.

Andrew Kohut, the center director, said previous polling by the Gallup organization found similar religious patterns. Kohut said he would leave it to historians and sociologists to explain why America is distinct, but he stressed the political effect of the findings.

“It’s who we are, who we’ve always been,” he said, and this “represents an important divide between the United States and our traditional allies” on matters like abortion and new biological technologies.

Senegal (97 percent) was the most religious country while France and the Czech Republic were the least (11 percent each).

Muslim nations ranked high in religiosity. Among traditionally Christian countries, the United States was the only Western nation with numbers similar to those in the Philippines and most of Latin America.

The survey also showed the apparent continuing influence of formerly atheist regimes.

Only 36 percent of respondents in Poland, the pope’s home country, said religion was very important to them. The numbers were even lower in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Vietnam, the only currently communist country surveyed, posted 24 percent. China did not allow pollsters to ask a religion question.