What are the religious beliefs of the American people? Which specific Christian doctrines do they accept and which do they reject? How does all this affect their social and political and ethical views? How does it affect their conduct? Who are the evangelicals? Where are they to be found? How pervasive are evangelical beliefs in American religious life? How do evangelicals’ convictions affect their conduct?
In seeking answers to these and related questions, CHRISTIANITY TODAY commissioned the Gallup organization and its affiliate, the Princeton Religion Research Center of Princeton, New Jersey, to poll Americans aged 18 and over. In accordance with its customary procedures, Gallup staff interviewed a representative sampling of the American population in scientifically selected localities. Interviewees responded to questions about their personal beliefs, practices, and attitudes. The findings of the poll are now tabulated and fill a bulky volume of 272 pages.
The hardest problem faced by the editorial staff in organizing the poll was how to determine who are evangelicals. After several weeks of serious consideration as to how this matter should be handled in the poll, the editor took the resulting definition home to his wife and discovered that by that definition she wasn’t an evangelical. In the end, the staff settled for two groupings, the first of which, for want of a better term, we called “orthodox evangelicals” and the second, “conversionalist evangelicals.” The magazine’s editors warn that neither of these should be construed as meaning that the term is the equivalent of “true Christian.” They simply represent segments of the Christian community which for purposes of this study are described as “evangelical” on the basis ...1
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