The survey was conducted by the Baylor University Sociology Department and the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion as the first in a series on the spiritual life of Americans. Baylor is a leading Baptist university, located in Waco, Texas.
Researchers found that only 10.8 percent of Americans have no ties to a congregation, denomination or faith group. Previous surveys had put that figure at 14 percent, overlooking about 10 million people involved in some form of organized religion, the Baylor report said.
Jews: 2.5 percent of American population
Baylor researchers found that one-third of Americans are evangelical Protestant, just under one-quarter are mainline Protestant, one-fifth are Roman Catholic and 5 percent are black Protestant. Jews compromise 2.5 percent of the population, while 5 percent of Americans belong to other faiths.
The rest, who are not involved in religious groups, are not fully secular, researchers said. More than 60 percent of the unaffiliated say they believe in God or a higher power, and nearly one-third say they pray at least occasionally. Eleven percent believe Jesus is the son of God.
Asked whether God favored the United States, only one-fifth of respondents said they agreed. Evangelical Protestants were the most likely to agree, with 26 percent saying they think God favors the country.
What about God?
Researchers also examined Americans' conception of God and found the greatest share - about 31 percent - think of God as "authoritarian," deeply involved in people's lives and world events, angry and capable of punishing those who are unfaithful.
Nearly one-quarter consider God a "distant" force that set the laws of nature in motion, but is not active in the world, the study found. About the same percentage view God as "benevolent," active in their daily lives, but less willing to condemn or punish.
And about 16 percent consider God "critical," an observer who views the state of the world unfavorably and will mete out punishment in another life.
The study also asked respondents about paranormal beliefs such as whether houses can be haunted or whether people can communicate with the dead. The report found that these beliefs are more prevalent in Eastern states.