The Pew Survey of
Religion and Public Life and Jehovah's
121, 2008 July)
The Pew survey of
Religion and Life association researches the
intersection of Religion and public life to better understand the role
of religion as a whole in public life in America today.
The 2008 survey
reveals a great deal of information about religion in
society as well as about the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) religion.
representative sample used for the survey, which was
called "massive," was 35,000 Americans over 18 years old. Witnesses are
only 0.7 percent of the population, or in this study 245 persons, which
was considered statistically reliable by the researchers.
The findings related to Jehovah's Witnesses
One major finding
was that Jehovah's Witnesses "had the lowest
retention rate of any religious tradition" – only 37 percent of those
who were reared Jehovah's Witnesses still identified themselves as
Witnesses as adults (2008, p. 26).
The survey also
concluded that the religious tradition most likely to
switch affiliation (including to atheism) included not only the
Witnesses but also the unaffiliated. The "affiliation change" data also
included persons who were reared in one faith and switched to another
faith. For the JWs, more than two-thirds of those who listed their
faith as Witnesses were reared in another faith, or were not affiliated
with any specific faith, as a child.
Also of interest
is the fact that 80 percent of those who were reared
in a religion are currently not affiliated with any religion (p. 27).
This supports the finding that large numbers of Americans leave the
faith in which they were reared. One reason for changing ones faith is
mixed marriage and young people today are more likely to be in a mixed
marriage than older adults were, supporting the trend today to marry
outside of the religion in which one was reared. These findings support
the common conclusion that the Witnesses are today a revolving door
The Witnesses had
one of the lowest levels of education of all the
religions surveyed. Nineteen percent had only a high school education
or less, the lowest education level of all religions surveyed (p. 56).
This compares to eight percent of atheists and only three percent of
all Jews. In contrast, only three percent of the Witnesses had a post
graduate degree and six percent were college graduates. This compares
with 21 percent of atheists who had post graduate degrees, and the same
percent were college graduates. Of the Jews, the comparable numbers
were 35 and 24 percent (p. 56).
About half (42
percent) of the Jehovah's Witnesses had incomes below
30,000 and only nine percent had incomes above 100,000 dollars. Only
those involved in historically black churches had incomes below the
Witnesses (p. 60). Of the Jews, a mere 14 percent had incomes below
30,000 but 46 percent had incomes above 100,000 dollars, or over 5
times the level of the Witnesses. Of those who labelled themselves
Protestant, 32 percent had incomes below 30,000 and 15 percent above
identified themselves with some theistic religious
tradition than males for most all religious traditions, including the
Witnesses. Of the Witnesses, the divide was greater than for most all
religions, namely only 40 percent of all Witnesses were males, and 60
percent were females. For Protestant traditions the average gender
divide was 46 and 54 percent, respectively. For the unaffiliated, the
level of men who accepted this label was 59 percent and women 41
percent, the reverse of the Witness ratio.
Also of interest
is the fact that 14 percent of the Witnesses were
divorced or separated, higher than all groups except historically black
churches and “other faiths” (p. 67). No doubt the strain of Witness
teaching also strains mixed marriages.
Of the Witnesses,
53 percent were married, 14 percent divorced, 11
percent widowed, and 20 percent were never married. Only one percent
were living together, the lowest of all religions groups except Hindus
(p. 67). In view of the fact that living together is a
disfellowshipping offense, this low number is not too surprising.
unaffiliated, an average of 10 percent were living together and,
of the Jews, six percent were living together.
survey confirms several common perceptions about the
Witnesses. They tend to be female, poorly educated, and in a lower
income bracket then the general population. They also tend to leave the
religion of their upbringing more often than members of most churches.
This is not unexpected considering the conflicts that Witnesses have
with society and the pull of the secular values in modern culture on
Witnesses youth, a pull which is also true of all youth.
Tracy (Editor). 2008. U.S. Religious Landscape
Survey. Washington, D.C.: The Pew Forum on Religion and Public
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