Population survey stresses the dominance of Christianity and Judaism in the United States

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Religions other than Christianity and Judaism are much smaller than often estimated in the United States and ''have hardly transformed the religious landscape'' as some claim, a new study maintains.

The percentage of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus has increased, but their numbers remain far below those of religions that are better established in United States, according to Tom W. Smith of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

The American Jewish Committee published his report, which is based on responses since 1973 to the General Social Survey, a poll that Smith directs.

In October, the Jewish committee issued a Smith paper concluding the number of U.S. Muslims has been greatly exaggerated. American Muslims took issue with the report.

But Smith repeats his assertion in this month's study, estimating that 1.9 million Muslims live in the United States. Most Muslim groups believe the number is between 6 million and 7 million.

Smith estimates 1.4 million Buddhists are in this country, compared to the 2.8 million to 4 million estimates often used. He also concluded the number of U.S. Hindus is less than 1.2 million, close to other estimates.

In the last decade, 2.6 percent of respondents to the General Social Survey identified with religions outside Judaism and Christianity, compared to 1.3 percent in the 1980s. Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism account for half of those in alternative faiths.

Despite this growing ''market share,'' Smith said, their numbers remain small.


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