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Poll: Quarter of Americans say God influences sporting events
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has regularly thanked God in the Ravens' somewhat improbable run to the Super Bowl.
January 29th, 2013
02:10 PM ET

Poll: Quarter of Americans say God influences sporting events

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - With millions of Americans set to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, a new survey finds more than a quarter of Americans believe that God "plays a role in determining which team wins" at sports events.

The survey by the Public Religion Research Institute also found that more than half of Americans believe “God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.”

“In an era where professional sports are driven by dollars and statistics," said institute CEO Robert P. Jones, "significant numbers of Americans see a divine hand at play."

Asked if they believe God plays a role in who wins, 27% of Americans said yes. Poll results varied among regions and religions: 36% said yes in the South, 28% in the Midwest, 20% in the Northeast and 15% in the West.

Among nonwhite Christians and white evangelicals, 40% and 38% said yes, respectively; 29% of Catholics and 19% of white mainline Protestants also responded that God plays a role.

Jones said these figures reflect many Americans' belief in a very active God.

Minority Christians and white evangelical Christians “have a very personal view of God, a God that is very active in their daily lives and very concerned about the things that matter to them,” Jones said. “So far as sports are one of the things that matter, it stands to reason that God is playing an important role.”

Faith and sports have long gone hand in hand; many athletes regularly thank God after their team wins, and some even write references to Scripture on their game-day gear.

After Kurt Warner’s 1999 Super Bowl victory with the St. Louis Rams, the evangelical Christian used his post-game interview to thank God. “Well, first things first,” Warner told a reporter. “I've got to thank my Lord and Savior up above — thank you, Jesus!”

Sunday’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers could see the same profession of faith. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who will make this Super Bowl his last game in the NFL, has regularly thanked God in the Ravens' somewhat improbable run to the Super Bowl.

After earning a berth in the big game by defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship, Lewis told reporters, “God doesn't make mistakes. He's never made one mistake. ... God is so amazing.”

“I'll tell anybody. One thing about God's will, you can never see God's will before it happens,” Lewis said after the game. “You can only see at the end of it. For his will to happen this way, I could never ask for anything else.”

In the Public Religion Research Institute poll, 50% said they approved of these types of faithful expressions, while 45% said it doesn’t matter and 4% said they disapproved.

“That is a minuscule number,” Jones said of the people who disapprove. “Even if you look at religious unaffiliated Americans … only 8% said that they disapproved.”

The telephone survey was conducted January 16-20 with a random sample of 1,033 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Faith • Sports

soundoff (741 Responses)
  1. buckybadger

    Well about 1 and 4 people believe 9-11 was an inside job. Like South Park said, 1 and 4 people are morons.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • Observer

      Pssst!

      1 and 4 equals 5.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Athy

      I think he means 1 in 4, or 1 out of 4.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  2. Regular_Dude

    soooo,when the other team loses,is it because they have fallen out of favor of GOD

    Commence the sacrifice of the virgins,at once,in order to appease O mighty GOD who controls the outcome of the game!

    January 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
  3. tony

    Success at sports is more due to inherited DNA than any other factor. Which is why fans and cheering has pretty much zero effect on choosing who is the fastest man on earth for example, or best in other sport.

    But hey. Isn't that just like religious worship too.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  4. wadej

    AH only an american god would give a damn about sports and which teams gonna win. yes 27% at least are f*#@king stupid

    January 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
  5. Michael

    This has always been a sad statistic, but essentially religious: these people believe that whoever wins is more godly. The losers, by comparison, are not as worthy of god's beneficence. So Ray Lewis, who is very outspoken regarding his faith, will be less godly if his team loses? Oh, that's right! Then it will be a test of his faith! In fact, it will be as if there were no god at all who gave a damn about the outcome of a football game...

    January 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  6. don

    LOL.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
  7. mason

    I'm proud of the 73%, embarassed by the 27%

    January 29, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
  8. tony

    And the number that put hard earned cash into collection plates, which effectively prove the non-existence of god is. . . . . ?

    January 29, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  9. tony

    Proof that at least 27% of the US adult population are morons.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
  10. Martin

    Why practice if all you have to do is pray?

    January 29, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I suspect they'd argue that god helps (rewards) those who help themselves. And possibly also that sporting events can have tiny impacts on people's lives that could ultimately lead to bigger events, like car accidents caused by timing of leaving a sporting event, so a god that always has his hands in the mix would be influencing pretty much everything for more complex ends. At least that's how I'd try to argue it if I had to take on that position.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
  11. me

    Finally, we have an accurate number to indicate percentage of Americans who are severely retarded!

    January 29, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
  12. Marybeth

    This is so ignorant. Why would a God give a damn about a sports game and let the horrors of the world continue unabated?

    January 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • vinster76

      I believe He may be asking us the same question.....

      January 29, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • Marybeth

      Vinster76:
      Good point.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Daniel in Denver

      "A god", Marybeth? Shame on you. Tragically, in this country, it's "THE god."

      January 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • Bud in NC

      Marybeth- You have to cut the Big Guy some slack. He is a guy and a great sports fan. So He has some wings and a few Budweisers and goes to work. He has to figure out the winners in sectional, conference, playoffs and national champs from peewees to the pros in football, basketball, soccer, hockey, sailing, boxing, bicycling, running, etc,etc etc, and to award individual trophies in all catagories and positions in the above.I am tired just thinkin about it.

      This is a daunting thankless task (to the losers). You try doing it. The bottom line is that He gets distracted and forgets to help starving people, people killed in the nightclub fire, the hurricane in the east, massacres all over the world, disease, mass shootings in the US, and on and on. He is doing the best he can. After all, He is not perfect. Just doing the best He can.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
  13. Justin

    Coincidentally, 27% of Americans are mentally retarded.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • Grant

      Absolutely agree! I wonder if those people also believe that headaches, flatulence and erectile dysfunction are also caused by god? How about hurricanes and school shootings? It's sad what blind faith makes you believe. Happy to be an atheist!

      January 29, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
  14. stevetall

    Poll: Quarter of Americans are idiots.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
  15. toydrum

    That is kind of a depressing statistic when you think about it. It means that a quarter of the people in this country believe that God favors one set of athletes over another. What kind fo God do they believe in that takes sides against half of his creation?

    January 29, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Layne

      This could be very misleading. There are two ways to interpret this question.

      Can a belief that God wants his team to win inspire a player to play his best? If so, then yes, a BELIEF in God can influence the result of a sporting contest. I can easily see 27% of America agreeing with that.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  16. ThinkDefyUnite

    Please. These are the same people who think that evolution is just a "theory" and that the devil planted dinosaurs in the rocks to test our faith. We have some seriously dumb-ass people in this country, and unfortunately for all of us some of these inbred idiots are in public office. If there was a god, and I wasn't an atheist, I'd pray to god to save us from these morons.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • vinster76

      you write as if you know the Source of life, the reason for the existence of man, and his unique ability to think for himself, and recognize his own mortality......you admit to being an atheist and at least you are not a hypocrite about it....However, one day, you will leave this earth, and you will know if you are right or wrong......You sound so sure of yourself, as if you know the truth.........Here is the truth from my perspective..... one day you will meet God, but as to whether you will like it or not remains to be seen

      January 29, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • Marybeth

      Great response! The only thing I'd question is the sureness of there being no God. I haven't a clue!

      January 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • ThinkDefyUnite

      @vinster. You are wrong. I wrote as though I think that the people who believe that god intervenes in athletic contests are idiots. Nothing more. There is no evidence of any god. Your position is that you know, even with no evidence. It is you who seems to be the sure one. I would love to meet your capricious, ambiguous god, for he has a LOT of explaining to do.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • kendog50

      You don't have to know "the source of life" to be extremely confident that god does not exist. You also don't have to search the earth to be extremely confident that bigfoot does not exist. there's no evidence of either being, so no reason to believe in them. When I die and when ThinkDefyUnite dies, we will not "know if we are right" because we will be dead and not know anything. How can I be so sure? Because we have all experienced what it's like to be dead - before we were born. Our experience of the year 2500 will be the same as our experience of the year 1500. Nothingness. There's no evidence of anything else.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @kendog50, I'm not arguing for life after death, but the fact we have no evidence does not mean it doesn't exist...that just doesn't follow as a logical conclusion. We don't know, and we have no grounds whatsoever to calculate probabilities. That's what people don't like though...we are even more vastly unknowing than anyone on any side of the argument wants to admit. So we make up probabilities and likelihoods to cover the fact that we're all just guessing.

      January 29, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  17. cpc65

    I guess if you're going to gamble, it helps to think that the big guy is routing for your side.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
  18. D

    Well, I guess, once again, South Park is right. One quarter of the populace is r3ta4rd3d.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
  19. Cyle in Dublin

    9 million children die every year from starvation, disease, war, or accidents... but an all powerful, omniscient being with access to the wonders of the entire universe takes an active interest in adult bipedal primates playing with balls.

    yeah... right.

    January 29, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
  20. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    What Dan Merica didn't report from the PRRI survey.

    The group with the greatest affinity for both questions ... that ...

    God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event (40%)
    God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success (a staggering 72%)

    Much more than Republicans, ...

    More than people in the south ...

    Even more than white evangelicals ...

    Is what PRRI calls "Minority Christians" (most of whom Pew would define as being affilated with 'Historically Black Protestant' churches)

    It's not necessarily surprising. It's just interesting.

    See:
    http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/God-on-the-Field1.jpg

    January 29, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.