Do you believe in the highest power?

The aspect that the type of question asked also influences the result of the answers is well known in social research. In this respect, it is important to keep this in mind, as the Gallup Institute has now published using the example of belief in God. The same is generally true, also for Germany.

“Although a 2018 Gallup poll found that formal membership in the US churches has hit an all-time low of 50 percent and one in five Americans does not identify with a religion, most of the country still expresses belief in God . How large this majority is, however, depends on how differentiated the answer options are. Gallup has asked this question in three different ways over the past few years, with beliefs varying between 87 and 64 percent. "

The Gallup Institute writes about this methodological consideration: “The highest level of faith (87 percent) results from a simple yes / no question,“ Do you believe in God ”, which Gallup last asked in 2017.

Belief in God drops to 79 percent when respondents are offered three options, one of which is God, whom they believe in. The rest are either unsure whether they believe in God or clearly state that they do not believe in God.

Belief in God appears even less if one only looks at those of the five-part question who say they are "convinced" that God exists, 64 percent. While all three creeds showed a decline, the decline was greatest in this group.

This applies in general and also in Germany to the “question of God”. If you only ask the type A question: "Do you believe in (a) God", the "yes" answers are in the range of 50-60 percent.

The tendency towards the general decrease to answer this unspecific question with “yes” is clear (66-58-55 percent). The reduction is particularly evident in West Germany. This steady decrease is significant among Roman Catholics. In the case of the EKD Evangelicals, there is - as a hypothesis - the trend that those who have not left the church (so far) are accordingly the more believers.

For a more precise question about belief in God, which conviction is involved, the largest group in each case among the EKD Evangelicals and the Roman Catholics are no longer - as provided for in the creed - the church members who believe in a personal God, but those who to whom the conception: "some higher being or a spiritual power" is closest.

In this question too, the change among Roman Catholics (belief in a “personal God”) is significant, from 36 to 29 percent.

The distributions in Table 2 indicate that under the umbrella of the unspecific question: “Do you believe in (a) God” there are a majority of respondents who - strictly speaking - do not believe in an Abrahamic God but in “some higher being or a spiritual power ”- whatever that may be.