A Gallup spokesperson told us that their sample size is unfortunately too small to do more analysis of the non-Christians who think the Bible is the "actual" or "inspired" word of God. Fortunately, one of the most important sociological surveys in the country has been asking essentially the same question for decades. Like Gallup, the General Social Survey (GSS) has found an uptick in the "book of fables" response and about three quarters of Americans siding with one of the two "word of God" responses. And like Gallup, it found a lot of non-Christians who think the Bible is the "word of God." Of the 39 percent of non-Christians who think the Bible is the "word of God," 77 percent think it's the "inspired word" and 23 percent think it's the "actual," literal, word-for-word, word (that's about 9% of non-Christians overall).
Now, it's true, only 101 out of about 4,800 total American respondents are non-Christians who have a literal, word-for-word view of the Bible (that's about 2.1% of the U.S. population). But keep in mind that there are an awful lot of Christians out there, and survey magic (and the size of the GSS) means that even with a margin of error of about 9.7 percent we can still find statistically significant descriptors.
So who are these people?
For the most part, we're talking about the "nones." The cohort of religiously unaffiliated has grown sharply in recent years. It has been the hot topic among religion reporters, researchers, evangelists, and others, all of whom have been eager to note that the "nones" rarely identify as agnostic or atheistic, and often believe in God, pray, and attend church. More than four out of five non-Christian literalists are "nones" (81%). About 10 percent are Jewish. The remaining 9 percent identify with other non-Christian religions.
Most of the non-Christian literalists essentially never attend church or other religious services (55% go less than once a year vs. 32% of the overall American population). But about a fifth of them still attend services weekly, along with a quarter of the overall U.S. population.
Non-Christian literalists are more likely to have been raised with no religion—23 percent, compared with 7 percent of the total population—and more likely to firmly believe God exists: 73 percent say they do, compared with about 58 percent of all Americans.
There's no statistically significant difference in gender between non-Christian literalists and other Americans. Nor do we see any geographic differences—there's no regional quirk that would account for non-Christians liking the Bible. But we do see some other important differences.