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Devil Alive and Well in U.S. Polls

While many studies suggest traditional Christian views are eroding, belief in the devil appears to be on the rise.

According to two recent polls, more than two-thirds of Americans believe Satan exists.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />

The numbers are the highest recorded by <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Gallup since the pollster started asking questions about Lucifer in the 1950s.

Belief in Satan hit bottom in 1991, when barely half (51 percent) acknowledged his existence, as many dismissed the devil as superstition in a scientific age. Today, however, belief in a supremely evil being is nearly as high among people with post-graduate degrees as those with a high school education or less.

“Turns out a century or so of strong science hasn’t trumped millennia of supernatural in explaining away all the bad stuff in the world,” commented the Evansville Courier&Press.

Gallup’s Jennifer Robison said evolutionary theory and modern psychology make Americans “more likely to think of people who do terrible things as broken human beings, rather than as agents of the nether world.” Further, she added, religion has lost much of its grip on American society. “So we might expect belief in the devil to have largely evaporated. It hasn’t.”

A Harris Interactive poll found that 68 percent of the public believes in the devil, and 69 percent believe in hell.

The Harris poll also asked people where they thought they would go when they died.

Seventy-six percent of Americans said they thought they were headed for heaven when their life on earth was finished. Only 2 percent felt hell would be their eternal destiny, while 12 percent said they were headed “somewhere else.”

Evangelical pollster George Barna has also weighed in on the discussion, defining Satan for polling purposes as a literal living being, and not simply a symbol of evil.

Barna reported that 27 percent of Christians “strongly agreed” that Satan exists as a “real” external being. Mormons were most likely to subscribe to this belief, while Methodists, Episcopalians and Roman Catholics were least likely to affirm a literal devil.