Pew: Americans prefer watching TV, movies over reading Bible during lockdown

Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez
Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez

A new survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center, reveals that Americans are turning to TV and movies, rather than the Bible, to keep them occupied during the coronavirus pandemic.

The survey, which featured responses from 10,211 adults, was conducted between July 13 and July 19. It asked respondents what activities they participated in on a daily and weekly basis as they deal with the stress and uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

The most popular activity for coping by far was watching television and movies. “Nine-in-ten U.S. adults say they watch TV or movies at least weekly to cope with the outbreak, including roughly three-quarters (73%) who say they do this daily,” Pew reported.

On the other hand, far fewer Americans have turned to reading Scripture on a daily or weekly basis as a way to cope with COVID-19. Just 29% of Americans said that they read Scripture on a weekly or daily basis. Among Christians, less than half (42%) said they read the Bible regularly to help cope with the outbreak.

Broken down by religion, a majority of evangelical (57%) and historically black (59%) Protestants claimed that they read Scripture at least weekly. Far fewer Catholics (22%) and mainline Protestants (29%) said that they have turned to the Bible at least once a week.

While the share of respondents who admitted to reading Scripture at least once a week was quite low, a much higher proportion of those surveyed said that they engaged in prayer regularly.

Among all groups, 55% said that they pray at least once a week, making it the fifth most common activity among the American public. Besides watching TV and movies, the activities with higher participation rates among respondents were spending time outdoors (84%), talking with friends and relatives via the phone or videoconference (70%) and exercise (64%).

According to the survey, prayer was the third most common weekly activity during the outbreak among Christians, with a 74% participation rate among the religion’s adherents. The only activities that boasted higher weekly participation rates among Christians were watching TV or movies (90%) and spending time outdoors (85%).

Among Protestants, 78% said they pray at least once a week, with 83% of evangelicals, 88% of Protestants from historically black traditions, and 65% of mainline Protestants saying so. Sixty-six percent of Catholics said they pray at least weekly.

A previous analysis by the Barna Group and the American Bible Society of Americans’ Bible reading habits in the midst of the pandemic found that the share of U.S. adults who read Scripture on a daily basis dropped from 14% in early 2019 to 9% in early 2020.

Nonetheless, publishers have reported higher sales in Bibles.

Tyndale House Publishers, a Christian publisher located in the Chicago suburbs, meanwhile, reported a 44% increase in sales of their Life Appreciation Bible and a 60% increase in sales of their Immerse Bible compared to March 2019. The increase in Bible sales led Tyndale executive Jim Jewell to tell The Christian Post that “it’s not surprising that people turn to the comfort and clarity of the Bible in times of trouble and uncertainty.” Another Bible publisher, Alabaster Co. of California, reported a 143% increase in Bible sales compared to last year.

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