Americans who say the New Testament is their favorite Testament in the Bible are more likely to oppose gay marriage and say they are pro-life than those who prefer the Old Testament, according to new data.
YouGov, a market research company headquartered in the United Kingdom, has released data compiled through YouGov Profiles of more than 30,000 Americans related to their biblical preferences and how they might shape their individual practices and beliefs.
The data show that less than 21 percent of Americans favor the Old Testament, which can be “embodied by fire and brimstone.” Meanwhile, 38 percent of Americans say their favorite part of the Bible is the New Testament, which focuses more on the love, grace and forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ.
However, 40 percent of Americans who responded to the survey said they either didn’t know which part of the Bible they liked best (19 percent) or they were unfamiliar with the Bible (21 percent).
While 31 percent of 18- to-24-year-olds said the New Testament was their favorite part of the Bible, 46 percent of those aged 65 or older said the same.
“This will in part be because younger Americans are less likely to be familiar with the Bible in the first place,” Matthew Smith, YouGov’s lead data journalist, wrote in a report.
The data show that 31 percent of 18- to 24-year-old respondents said they are not familiar with the Bible, while only 14 percent of people aged 65 and older said the same.
The data also suggests that Protestants (59 percent) are more likely than Roman Catholics (38 percent) to say they prefer the New Testament. But within Protestantism, there are differences between the denominations.
The most likely group to say they favor the New Testament are Protestants who attend nondenominational or independent churches (65 percent). By comparison, 51 percent of Baptists, Methodists, and Lutherans said they prefer the New Testament.
Lutherans were least likely to say that they prefer the Old Testament (18 percent), while Baptists were most likely to say they prefer the Old Testament (28 percent). Nineteen percent of independent or nondenominational Christians and 20 percent of Methodists said they preferred the Old Testament.
Twenty-six percent of Catholics say they prefer the Old Testament.
The poll shows that New Testament Americans are more likely to consider themselves “very religious” (36 percent), pray once a day (60 percent) and go to church at least once per week (44 percent).
Twenty-one percent of Old Testament respondents said they are “very religious.” About 47 percent of Old Testament respondents said they pray daily and 28 percent said they attend church weekly.
The poll also showed a bit of a divide between Old Testament Americans and New Testament Americans when it comes to beliefs on certain hot-button political issues.
When it comes to the issue of abortion, 56 percent of New Testament respondents said they are strongly or somewhat “pro-life,” while 52 percent of Old Testament respondents said they are strongly or somewhat “pro-choice.”
Forty percent of New Testament Americans said they were somewhat or strongly pro-choice, while 39 percent of Old Testament respondents said the same.
"Insofar as the reasons given by many pro-lifers for holding that view are religious in nature, it would stand to reason that those who are less religious are less likely to be pro-life," Smith told The Christian Post in an email. "Although real life is complicated and the correlations are never perfect for all sorts of reasons, there will be some very religious people who are pro-choice and some unreligious people who are pro-life."
Fifty-five percent of New Testament Americans said they somewhat or strongly oppose gay marriage, while only 43 percent of their Old Testament counterparts said the same.
Forty percent of New Testament Americans said they strongly or somewhat support gay marriage, while 49 percent of Old Testament Americans expressed the same beliefs.
The result is a bit ironic considering the Old Testament contains the warning in Leviticus that "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.”
Smith told CP that he thinks the result on gay marriage — like the result for the pro-life/pro-choice question — is tied more strongly to the fact that Old Testament respondents were less likely to say they are very religious.
He also noted that "preferring the New Testament is not the same as disliking or disregarding the Old Testament."
When asked about the issue of assisted suicide, majorities of both Old Testament and New Testament Americans said they think assisted suicide should be always or mostly legal.
Twenty-three percent of Old Testament Americans said they believe assisted suicide should be always or mostly illegal, while 37 percent of New Testament respondents said the same.
Sixty-two percent of Old Testament respondents believe that assisted suicide should be always or mostly legal, while 52 percent of New Testament Americans said the same.
New Testament respondents more so than Old Testament respondents were more likely to believe in theological concepts such as Heaven (77 percent to 62 percent), angels (73 percent to 60 percent), an eternal soul (71 percent to 52 percent), the afterlife (69 percent to 50 percent), Hell (65 percent to 49 percent), the devil (62 percent to 46 percent), judgement day or end times (63 percent to 45 percent).
The data show that those who prefer the Old Testament are more likely to have a negative view of the impact religion has had on the history on the planet. Old Testament Americans, meanwhile, are more likely than New Testament Americans (42 percent to 32 percent) to believe that “across history, religion has done more bad than good.”
Additionally, New Testament respondents were (53 percent) more likely to say “there is only one true religion” than Americans who said they preferred the Old Testament (41 percent).
The YouGov data also indicates that 83 percent of New Testament Americans are more likely to believe in a Creator while just 67 percent of Old Testament Americans said the same.
Old Testament Americans were slightly more likely to say they “definitely believe” in Darwinian evolution (28 percent), while just 24 percent of New Testament Americans said the same.
The data is drawn from a pair of questions asking "which of these do you definitely believe" and "which of these do you definitely not believe" so data on whether respondents somewhat believe in evolution is not available.
"The level of difference between the two groups [on Darwinian evolution] is relatively small (almost small enough to be considered margin of error), especially when compared to the difference for all the other entities in that question," Smith told CP. "So I wouldn’t read a lot into that gap."