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New Research on Protestant Pastors' Views of the Environment

We recently released some new survey results detailing Protestant pastors’ views on the environment and recycling. This is the latest data in an ongoing study we started in 2008. Of note is the percentage of Global Warming skeptics has dropped since 2010, but is still higher than in 2008.

These results also show Protestant pastors in the Northeast, older pastors, and pastors self-identifying as Democrats tend to be more environmentally active compared to younger, Republicans, and counterparts in other regions of the country.

From the release:

When asked to respond to the statement: “I believe global warming is real and man made,” 43 percent of pastors affirm the statement (up from 36 percent in 2010 but lower than the 47 percent in 2008), while 54 percent disagree. The percentage disagreeing is higher than in 2008 (48 percent), but lower than 2010, when 60 percent disagreed global warming is real and man made.

Pastors identifying as Democrats are the most likely to strongly agree (76 percent) in the validity of man-made global warming, followed by Independents (20 percent). Just 7 percent of Republican pastors strongly agree. Conversely, Republican pastors are the most likely to strongly disagree (49 percent), followed by Independents (35 percent) and Democrats (5 percent).

According to the LifeWay Research survey, less than half (45 percent) of pastors agree their church has taken tangible steps to reduce their carbon footprint.

Similar to other responses, efforts in reducing carbon footprints are highest among Democrats and those large cities. Democrat pastors are more likely than Republican pastors to strongly agree (34 percent vs. 8 percent). Pastors in large cities are also more likely (22 percent) to strongly agree compared to those in small cities (12 percent) and rural areas (11 percent).

Recycling programs – one of the main ways individuals and organizations attempt to reduce their carbon footprint – is well established among churches. More than 60 percent of Protestant pastors say their church has an active recycling program in place at their church building while a third (34 percent) do not.

Regional, political, and denominational breakdowns.

For the statement “I believe global warming is real and man made”:

  • Pastors in large cities (32 percent) are more likely to strongly agree with the statement than pastors in small cities (20 percent) and rural areas (18 percent);
  • Southern pastors are less likely (18 percent) to strongly agree with the statement than pastors in the Northeast (30 percent) and West (25 percent);
  • Self-identified mainline pastors are more likely than self-identified evangelical pastors to strongly agree (35 percent vs. 15 percent) with the statement.

For the statement “Our church has an active recycling program in place at our church building”:

  • Pastors in the Northeast are the most likely to strongly agree (52 percent) while pastors in the South are the least likely (30 percent);
  • Pastors age 55-64 are more likely to strongly agree (42 percent) than pastors age 45-54 (34 percent) and 18-44 (31 percent);
  • Democrat pastors are the most likely to strongly agree (62 percent) compared to Republican pastors (29 percent);
  • Self-identified mainline pastors are more likely to strongly agree (43 percent) than evangelical pastors (34 percent).
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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.