A LifeWay Research study has found that while the majority, or two-thirds of Americans admit that they are sinners, only a minority, or 28 percent, said that they depend on Jesus Christ to overcome sin.
The study, conducted Sept. 27–Oct. 1, 2016 of 1,000 Americans, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level, noted that more people rely on themselves than on Jesus to overcome sin.
Thirty-four percent said that they are sinners who "work on being less of one," the study found, while 10 percent insisted that sin does not exist. Another eight percent argued that they are not sinners, while five percent said they are "fine" with being a sinner.
Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, said that he was struck by how few Americans say they rely on Jesus to overcome sin, which he said is a "core Christian belief."
"To some Americans, saying you're a sinner is a way of admitting you are not perfect," McConnell reflected. "To those folks, it doesn't necessarily mean you're evil or should be punished for your sin. That's something the church should pay attention to."
Evangelicals were found to be much more likely to depend on Christ than the general population, a breakdown of the results found.
"Americans with evangelical beliefs are more likely to say they rely on Jesus to overcome their sin (72 percent) than those without evangelical beliefs (19 percent)," the study said.
"Catholics are more likely than Protestants to work to be less of a sinner (48 vs. 31 percent) and to say they are not a sinner (11 vs. 5 percent), but less likely to say they depend on Jesus Christ to overcome sin (19 vs. 49 percent)."
As for how the study defined evangelicals, it revealed that it asked respondents four separate statements using a four-point, forced choice scale.
To qualify as an evangelical, believers needed to agree that the Bible is the highest authority; that it is very important to encourage non-Christians to trust in Jesus Christ; that Jesus Christ's death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of sin; and that only those who trust in Jesus alone can receive eternal salvation.
Other surveys earlier this year have found that relatively few Americans hold a distinctly biblical worldview despite their claims.
Barna Group pointed out in February that seven out of 10 American adults called themselves Christians, but only 10 percent were able to answer questions about the Bible and Christian beliefs.
"Our research collected information about attitudes and behaviors related to practical matters like lying, cheating, stealing, pornography, the nature of God, and the consequences of unresolved sin," the Barna report said at the time.
"That's what makes the discrepancy between the percentage of people who consider themselves to be Christian — more than seven out of every 10 — and those who have a biblical worldview — just one out of every 10 — so alarming."