A poll released Thursday questioning respondents about God and natural disasters reveals that evangelicals, more than any other group, tend to believe that natural disasters are signs from God.
Nearly six in ten white evangelical respondents believe that natural disasters are signs from God, according to the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service news poll. By comparison, only about one-third of Catholics (31 percent) and mainline Protestants (34 percent) believe that natural disasters are signs from God.
The PRRI/RNS poll finds that 67 percent of evangelicals believe natural disasters are evidence of what the Bible calls the "end times" compared to 58 percent of all respondents who see it as evidence of global climate change. Among Republicans, 52 percent believe that natural disasters are evidence of the end times.
Daniel Cox, PRRI research director, said of the poll, "Evangelical Protestants and Republicans are much more likely to believe that natural disasters are evidence of what the Bible calls the 'end times' rather than evidence of global climate change."
A lesser but still significant portion of polled evangelicals – 52 percent – believe that global climate change caused the recent natural disasters.
The poll also finds that 53 percent of white evangelicals believe that God punishes nations for the sins of its citizens.
Last year, televangelist Pat Robertson had exclaimed that Haiti's earthquake was a curse for its voodoo history. Robertson made similar remarks about the 2005 hurricane that devastated the Gulf Coast, linking the tragedy to abortion.
But no prominent evangelical leaders in America have publicly interpreted the recent tragedy in Japan as being punishment from God.
Americans are strongly supportive of financially helping Japan, according to the poll. More than eight in 10 respondents say that providing financial assistance to Japan is either very important or somewhat important despite economic challenges at home.
The PRRI/RNS poll is based on telephone interviews with 1,008 U.S. adults conducted March 17-20, 2011.