American Bible Society

Since its founding in 1816, American Bible Society has been a pioneering leader for Bible access, engagement and translation. American Bible Society’s commitment for the next 10 years is to translate the Bible into 100 percent of all languages and to equip 100 million people in the U.S. to actively engage with the Bible.

About the Project

Beginning in 2011, American Bible Society commissioned Barna Group to conduct a yearly study of the State of the Bible in the U.S. These studies, which to date include interviews with more than 14,000 U.S. adults and teens, track various angles related to Bible engagement, including Bible reading frequency, beliefs about the Bible and perceptions of the Bible’s usefulness in personal and public life. Barna has worked with American Bible Society to define four categories of Bible engagement based on people’s beliefs about the Bible and how often they read it.

The Process

  • Step 1: The Research

    State of the Bible (2011–present): Each year, the research project consists of two different methodologies: a telephone survey of 1,000 adults 18 and older in the continental U.S., and a nationally representative online survey of 1,000 adults. In 2015, American Bible Society began interviewing teens ages 13 to 17 as well. Most of the questions are asked in the telephone survey, while a set of core questions are also included online. The use of two methodologies provides a larger sample size for key questions and ensures greater representation among all age groups.

    The Bible In America (2016): In partnership with American Bible Society, Barna is releasing a research report, The Bible In America, which is based on the State of the Bible research. The Bible in America adds depth and detail to the national picture and identifies changes in Americans’ perspectives and habits over time. It is a multiyear survey of attitudes toward and perceptions of the Bible, set against the backdrop of a changing cultural landscape, and it represents one of the largest sets of aggregate data the firm has ever collected on any single topic.

    Bible-Minded Cities (2013–2016): Each year, American Bible Society and Barna look at how the top 100 major metro areas in the U.S. view and use the Bible. Individuals who report using the Bible in a typical week and strongly agree that it is accurate in all of its teachings are categorized as “Bible-minded,” a definition that captures both action and attitude. The rankings thus reflect an overall openness or resistance to the Bible in various U.S. cities.

  • Step 2: The Findings

    Americans overwhelmingly name the Bible as holy or sacred literature, and have done so consistently since 2011. However, although many people hold the Scriptures in high esteem, less than half of the population strongly agrees that the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life. Similarly, about one in six Americans strongly agrees that the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths.

    Roughly half of all U.S. adults believe the Bible has too little influence in U.S. society. About half of Americans also believe that politics would be more civil and politicians would be more effective if they read the Bible on a regular basis.

    The findings also reveal that rising skepticism is creating an atmosphere that is unfriendly, and sometimes even hostile, to claims of faith. Moral authority is shifting away from external sources of truth toward an internal desire for self-fulfillment.

    Residents of the South are the most Bible-minded region in the U.S., with all of the top 10 cities located below the Mason-Dixon line. Chattanooga tops the list with 52 percent of its population defined as Bible-minded. The bottom 10 cities, or those least Bible-minded, are primarily located in the Northeast and the West. Only 10 percent of Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York, residents are considered Bible-minded, making that metro area lowest on the list.

  • Step 3: The Results

    Using these robust research findings, Barna worked with American Bible Society to develop and publish a highly designed report(monograph) that includes professionally designed infographics, analysis and extensive data, available in print and digital formats.The Bible in America was released at the celebration of American Bible Society’s bicentennial on May 12, 2016.

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