Written by Robert Sivigny, Librarian
How many Evangelicals attend a religious service more than once a week? What is the distribution of Mormons in America? Which people groups have the least missions work directed toward them? Statistical data is available through the library Web pages in a number of places. A good starting point is a Website link for the Association of Religion Data Archives found on the library Religious Resources homepage, under, statistics. Housed at Penn State University, the Association of Religion Data Archives serves as a statistical data clearinghouse for researchers, congregations, educators, and the press. You can find in-depth studies based on state, region, or county, with inter-active maps. Enter a zip code on their main Web page, about half way down at, “U.S. Maps,” and the program will display a regional map showing adherent percentiles by major religious groups or by denomination, with options for displaying 1980 and 1990 data. All data, including graphs, maps, and tables, can be downloaded and used in research publications as long as the material is properly cited.
If you are looking for religion numbers by country, use the World Christian Database. Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, this database covers 238 countries, 3,000 provinces, 5,000 cities, and 13,000 ethno-linguistic people groups, incorporating all the data from David Barrett’s, World Christian Encyclopedia, and his World Christian Trends. This is the program of choice if you are doing a missions research project on an unreached people group.
Two more Web sites are of special interest, The Barna Group research pages, and the U. S. Religious Landscape Survey. Both of these are linked on the Religion Resources page under “statistics.” Author of thirty-nine books including, The Frog in the Kettle, George Barna is hailed by some as “the most quoted person in the Christian Church today.” Barna’s Website offers a “Barna by Topic” page with summary statistical data on subjects such as church attendance, Hispanics, faith commitment, gender differences, and Evangelical Christians, to name a few. For example, according to Barna, four percent of registered Democrats and five percent of registered Independents are evangelical Christians, compared to nineteen percent of registered Republicans.
The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey was conducted in 2007 using interviews with more than 35,000 Americans. The special survey, sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, details the beliefs and practices of the American public using maps, tables, summaries, and comparative studies.
The survey shows, among other things, that “more than half of Americans say religion is very important in their lives, attend religious services regularly and pray daily. Furthermore a plurality of adults who are affiliated with a religion want their religion to preserve its traditional beliefs and practices rather than adjust to new circumstances or adopt modern beliefs and practices.”1 The site offers reports, publications, and legal backgrounders, and forum transcripts which may be viewed by date or topic. Topics include bioethics, death penalty, gay marriage, and religion and public schools, among others. One interesting feature is the opportunity to compare American political candidates on issues such abortion, church and state, death penalty, and education.
Any kind of quantitative research is dependent on reliable statistical information. Online resources like World Christian Database, The Barna Group, U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, and other Religion Statistics sites help researchers avoid potential pitfalls of Web-based research and find trustworthy data quickly.
1. U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 2008. Online: http://religions.pewforum.org/reports [24 June 2008].