In December, Gallup looked at the seven people Americans trust more than their pastor. Today, the Barna Group reported that Americans believe professional athletes influence society more than pastors "by more than a three-to-one margin."
Released just before the Superbowl, Barna's survey suggests that 64 percent of Americans think pro athletes have more influence in society than professional faith leaders, whereas 19 percent think faith leaders have more influence. (The rest say both have equal influence (8%) or are not sure (10%).)
"Sports figures are deemed most influential by those making $60,000-plus, college graduates, whites and parents," notes Barna. "Those most likely to select faith leaders were weekly church attenders and those with incomes under $40,000."
Barna also found that 61 percent of Americans support athletes' public professions of faith (including most evangelicals (88%), blacks (79%), Boomers (66%), parents of children under 18 (66%), and women (65%)), with the most cited reason being they believe athletes have freedom of speech (40%). Perhaps most interesting, only 32 percent of Americans think athlete professions of faith make people "more spiritually minded."
Barna also looked at how aware Americans are of prominent athletes that openly discuss their faith. Not surprisingly, Tim Tebow tops the list:
* Tim Tebow, pro football player
83% of Americans are aware of Tebow; 73% feel favorably about his public discussion of faith
* Kurt Warner, retired pro football player
59% overall awareness; 80% are favorable toward his public discussions of faith
* Jeremy Lin, pro basketball player
40% awareness; 76% favorability
* Bubba Watson, professional golfer
40% awareness; 77% favorability
* Albert Pujols, professional baseball player
36% awareness; 81% favorability
* Robert Griffin III, professional football player
34% awareness; 78% favorability
* Clayton Kershaw, professional baseball player
25% awareness, 78% favorability
In addition to previously noting the seven people Americans trust more than their pastor, CT looked at the controversial Christians in the 2013 Superbowl.
CT has previously reported on the Super Bowl, including Super Bowl evangelism, faith-based Super Bowl parties, and a cover story on why America loves football. CT also previously interviewed quarterback Tim Tebow about his faith.