As the 2016 presidential primaries get underway and the election gets into full swing, questions about candidates’ religious identity and biblical views are up for debate. With a host of divisive, religously charged social issues (Islam, same-sex marriage, abortion) sparking controversy, Barna decided to explore Bible engagement in cities across the United States. The annual “Bible-Minded” cities report, based on interviews with 65,064 adults over a 10-year period, shows how people in the nation’s 100-largest media markets view and use the Bible.
What Is a Bible-Minded City?
Each year, in partnership with American Bible Society, Barna ranks the nation’s top media markets based on their level of Bible engagement. Individuals who report reading the Bible in a typical week and who strongly assert the Bible is accurate in the principles it teaches are considered to be Bible-minded. This definition captures action and attitude—those who both engage and esteem the Christian scriptures. The rankings thus reflect an overall openness or resistance to the Bible in various U.S. cities.
The Top Bible-Minded Cities in 2016
As in previous years, the South remains the most Bible-minded region of the country, with all of the top 10 cities located below the Mason-Dixon line. After dropping down to the runner-up position last year from the top spot three years in a row, Chattanooga, Tennessee, reclaims its title as the most Bible-minded city in America. Fifty-two percent of its population qualifies as Bible-minded. Birmingham/Anniston/Tuscaloosa, AL—the most Bible-minded city of 2015—dropped to second place (51%).
Third, fourth and fifth places all went to Roanoke/Lynchburg, Virginia (48%), Shreveport, Louisiana (47%), and Tri-Cities, Tennessee (47%), respectively. Other cities in the top 10 include Charlotte, North Carolina (46%), Little Rock/Pine Bluff, Arkasas (46%), Knoxville, Tennessee (45%), the Greenville, South Caroline, and Asheville, North Carolina, area (44%) and Lexington, Kentucky (44%).
The Least Bible-Minded Cities in 2016
The bottom five cities are primarily in the Northeast or on the East Coast, with the exception of one in the Midwest. The least Bible-minded city in 2016—Albany/Schenectady/Troy, New York—moved up one spot from last year to claim the crown, with only 10 percent of residents qualifying as Bible-minded. Boston, Massachusetts (11%), moved from third to second place while Providence, Rhode Island (12%)—the least Bible-minded city in 2015—dropped two spots to third place. The only Midwest city to make the top five was Cedar Rapids, Iowa (13%), followed by Buffalo, New York (13%), to round out the list.
Other cities in the bottom 10 include Las Vegas, Nevada (14%), the San Francisco, California, area (15%), Hartford/New Haven, Connecticut (16%), Phoenix/Prescott, Arizona (16%), and Salt Lake City, Utah (17%).
Where does your city rank?