Feb 21, 2018

From the Archives

The Enduring Influence of Billy Graham

Evangelist Billy Graham has died at the age of 99 at his home in North Carolina. Widely considered the most significant religious figure of the twentieth century, it’s estimated that Graham preached the gospel—in person—to over 200 million people (more than any preacher in history) in 185 countries and to millions more via television and other media. Astonishingly, Christianity Today reports that over the course of his lifetime he persuaded more than 3 million people to commit their lives to Christ. As a spiritual advisor to presidents and founding member of enduring institutions like Christianity Today, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Youth for Christ, “America’s Pastor” was a model of integrity and humility, making regular appearances on lists of “most admired” people.

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Over the years, Barna’s polls have included questions about the influence of Billy Graham. In memory of this singular figure in American and Christian life, we’re revisiting some of these statistics, which serve as a testament to the enormous impact of a well-lived life:

In 2007, Barna asked American adults about their opinion of Billy Graham:

  • 36 percent of American adults said they have a “very favorable” view of Billy Graham.

The survey also included public figures like George Clooney (30% very favorable), Bono (18%), Pat Robertson (6%), Chuck Colson (4%) and Donald Trump (8%).

In 2011, Barna asked American adults who they consider to be the single most influential Christian leader in the U.S. today:

  • 19 percent of American adults chose Billy Graham.

This is particularly striking considering only 9 percent chose the Pope. The survey also included figures such as Barack Obama (8%) and Joel Osteen (5%).

In 2014, Barna asked American adults how familiar they are with Billy Graham:

  • 34 percent of American adults said they were “very familiar” with Billy Graham.

Other religious leaders in the survey included Pope Francis (28% very familiar), the Dalai Lama (21%) and Andy Stanley (4%).

These data offer a striking narrative: The late Billy Graham was a titanic figure in American public life, enjoying wide and consistent recognition and favorability. His death will be felt not only among the Christian community but the broader public who recognized his leadership and courage and admired his humility and love.

Data about public opinion of Billy Graham serve as a testament to his impact.

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About the Research
The statistics and data throughout these studies have been drawn from a series of national public opinion surveys conducted by Barna Group. They include the following: n=522 | January 19-28, 2007, n=1,007 | August 1-14, 2011 and n=1,024 | February 20-24, 2014. All of the studies referenced were conducted by Barna Group, unless otherwise noted, among a nationally representative sample of the population.

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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