By Aaron Earls
Most Americans believe pastors are good for the country, but fewer believe they have the positive impact of teachers or doctors.
A recent AP poll found 55% of Americans believe clergy members and religious leaders have at least a somewhat positive impact on society, with 19% saying they have a very positive effect.
Fewer than a quarter say they have neither a positive nor negative impact (23%). Around 1 in 5 (21%) believe religious leaders have at least a somewhat negative impact, including 6% who say their effect on society is very negative.
Americans are more likely to see teachers (84%), medical doctors (83%), scientists (80%), or members of the military (75%) as positively contributing to society.
Pastors did rank higher than lawyers (42%) or business executives (40%).
Unsurprisingly, religious adherents (62%) are almost twice as likely as the irreligious (32%) to say clergy make a positive impact.
When asked about specific character traits, Americans believe religious leaders are caring, but are less sure, among other things, about their honesty.
Half (50%) say “caring” describes clergy members extremely or very well. Around a third (34%) say it describes them moderately well, while 14% say not very or not well at all.
Fewer see pastors clearly exhibiting intelligence (40%), honesty (39%), and trustworthiness (34%).
Even fewer believe pastors are narrow-minded (31%), selfish (19%), or lazy (11%).
Belonging to a religion and attending services impacts the way people view religious leaders
“Adults who have a religion are more likely to describe clergy members as intelligent, honest, trustworthy, and caring, while those without a religion are more likely to describe clergy members as selfish,” according to the AP report.
Among those who identify with a religion, those who attend services at least two to three times a month (61%) are more likely than those who don’t attend as regularly (37%) to believe pastors are intelligent.
Those who attend frequently are more likely to see clergy as caring, honest, and trustworthy. Irregular attendees are more likely to say pastors are narrow-minded.
Aaron is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.