By Aaron Earls
Most Americans say religious leaders have had influence in their life, but few say they regularly consult with them when making a big decision today.
A recent AP survey found 55% of Americans say clergy members or religious leaders have had at least some influence in their lives, while 45% say they’ve had little to no influence.
Specifically, 21% say religious leaders have had a lot of influence, 33% say some, 25% say not much, and 20% say pastors have had no influence.
Those who identify with a religion are more than twice as likely to say pastors have had an influence compared to the religious unaffiliated (63% to 26%).
Among those who have a religious affiliation, those who regularly attend services (85%) are far more likely to say religious leaders have influenced their lives (47%).
Less than half of Americans say they actually want religious leaders to have influence in their lives.
While 47% say they want at least some influence, 52% say they want not much or none at all.
Among parents of children under 18, those numbers essentially flip when asked how much influence they want a religious leader to have in their child’s life.
More than half (52%) say they want some or a lot of influence, while 48% say they want less.
Among religiously affiliated Americans, 59% say they want a pastor to have at least some influence in their life.
Only 7% of the religiously unaffiliated say they want influence on their life from a pastor or religious leader.
The younger one is the less likely they are to want pastoral influence.
Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 68% say they want religious leaders to have little to no influence on their life, with only 30% who want at least some influence.
Americans who are 60 and older are twice as likely to say they want the influence of a pastor in their life.
While 60% say they want at least some influence, 40% say they want not much or none at all.
Few actually consult religious leaders
Regardless of whether, they say they want influence or not, few Americans actually consult a clergy member or religious leader when making an important decision.
Around 1 in 4 (24%) say consult a pastor at least sometimes, including 6% who say they do so often.
Another quarter (26%) say they rarely do so, while half of Americans (49%) say they never consult religious leaders during when facing a big life choice.
Those who identify with a faith are more than seven times as likely to consult with a religious leader (30% to 4%).
Among those with a religion, those who regularly attend services are more than three times as likely to seek consultation as those who attend less frequently (49% to 16%).
Americans are more likely to ask religious leaders about charitable giving or marriage than they are to talk to them about finances or sex.
One in 5 (21%) say they are very or extremely likely to consult pastors on volunteering or charitable giving, as well as marriage, divorce, or relationships.
Among parents, 18% say they are at least very likely to consult religious leaders about child rearing and 16% say the same about the child’s education.
Very few say they can see themselves talking to a clergy member about medical decisions (8%), career or work life (8%), family planning, such as fertility or birth control (8%), political activity or voting decisions (8%), financial decisions (7%), or sex and sexuality (7%).
However, more than 8 in 10 of those who talked with a religious leader about an important decision say the consultation had at least some value.
More than 2 in 5 say the conversation was very or extremely valuable (43%), while 40% say it was moderately valuable.
Fewer say the consultation was not very valuable (11%) or not valuable at all (5%).
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.