(Photo: Reuters/Joe Skipper)
Super Bowl Sunday is almost here, and 27 percent of Americans believe God will play a role in the big game, according to a study released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute.
"In an era where professional sports are driven by dollars and statistics, significant numbers of Americans see a divine hand at play," said Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, in a statement. "Roughly 3-in-10 Americans believe that God plays a role in determining which team wins, and a majority (53 percent) believe that God rewards faithful athletes."
The survey was conducted by interviewing a random sampling of 1,033 adults in the U.S. during the weekend of the NFL's conference championship games.
People living in some regions of the U.S. are more likely to believe that God influences sporting events than are people in other areas. Southerners are most likely to believe God influences which team wins, with 36 percent of people living in the South believing that is the case. Those living in the Midwest (28 percent), Northeast (20 percent) and West (15 percent) are less likely to believe the same.
These percentages also vary between different religious groups. While 40 percent of minority Christians and 38 percent of white evangelical Protestants believe God has a role in deciding the winner of a game, only 29 percent of Catholics, 19 percent of white mainline Protestants and 12 percent of people who don't affiliate themselves with any religion say the same is true.
Professional football is America's most-followed sport. Nearly half (48 percent) of the people who watch college or professional sports at least a few times each year said professional football is the one they most closely follow.
But what happened to baseball being "America's favorite pastime?" More than half (55 percent) of those surveyed said football, not baseball, is America's national sport.
The survey found that 26 percent of Americans said that on any given Sunday they are more likely to be in church, compared to 17 percent who said they are more likely to be watching football, 21 percent who said they are more likely to be doing both, and 36 percent who said they are not likely to be doing either.
The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens will play in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The game has been labeled the "Harbowl" by some because the competing teams are led, for the first time ever, by brothers – head coaches Jim and John Harbaugh.
Only two percent of Americans are fans of Jim's 49ers, and one percent are fans of John's Ravens, yet two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans are expected to watch the big game – including 42 percent who seldom, if ever, watch sports.