Several times a year, the Pew Research Center hits reporters with another newsy study -- full of numbers and public-square trends -- that is almost impossible not to cover.
The latest report was topped with this sprawling double-decker headline: "Americans Express Increasingly Warm Feelings Toward Religious Groups -- Jews, Catholics continue to receive warmest ratings, atheists and Muslims move from cool to neutral."
That's a rather warm and fuzzy way to put it and that's precisely how The New York Times -- in a very straightforward and newsy report -- decided to cover this material. Of course, this survey was also framed with references (#DUH) to the 2016 presidential race. Never forget that politics is what is really real.
After an election year that stirred up animosity across racial and religious lines, a new survey has found that Americans are actually feeling warmer toward people in nearly every religious group -- including Muslims -- than they did three years ago.
Muslims and atheists still rank at the bottom of the poll, which asked respondents to rate their attitudes toward religious groups on a “feeling thermometer.” However, Muslims and atheists -- who have long been targets of prejudice in the United States -- received substantially warmer ratings on the scale than they did in a survey in 2014: Muslims rose to 48 percent from 40, and atheists to 50 percent from 41.
The religious groups that ranked highest, as they did three years ago, were Jews (67 percent) and Catholics (66 percent). Mainline Protestants, including Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, who were measured for the first time, came in at 65 percent. Buddhists rose on the scale to 60 percent from 53, Hindus to 58 from 50, and Mormons to 54 from 48.
There was, however, one exception to this civility trend.
Evangelical Christians were the only group that did not improve their standing from three years ago, plateauing at 61 percent.
As you would imagine -- remember the journalism commandment that "all news is local" -- scribes at Christianity Today jumped on that trend right at the top of their report on the survey.