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
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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. mddong

    I grew up in the 80s and early 90s when the 49ers won 5 Superbowls.
    I moved to the Boston area in 1997 and the Pats won 3 Superbowls. The Redsox won 2 World Series after several decades. The Celtics won.
    Those teams suck now that I have moved back to the Northern California in 2007. The SF Giants finally won not 1 but 2 World Series. The 49ers are back in the Superbowl.
    Tom Brady went to my high school. So did Barry Bonds and Lynn Swann. Colin Kapernick is from the Bay Area.

    God doesnt influence sports. I DO.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • Mo Bettah


      Colin Kaepernickis from Turlock, CA - down near Modesto and Merced - in the Central Valley (not the Bay Area).

      January 30, 2013 at 12:23 am |
  2. Lenny Pincus

    Which means 75% think God has better things to do.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
  3. amy

    Wow – people are really upset about this. I would say have fred say a few words to put everyone to sleep, but I think he's retired already for the evening.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  4. Justin

    And that 27% are examples of little intelligence.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
  5. Hector Cortez

    God lets millions die from disease, hunger, murder, natural tragedies, but yet he supposedly is involved in the outcome of your games?

    January 29, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Namor Nahp

      Yet again, another unintelligible and overly used argument opposing God and Christianity. If your comment would have been followed by some indication of scholar and research then there may have been some credibility and reason behind such words. One can't just post such a simple comment on CNN and expect no response. However, this is no personal attack on you or anyone who holds such beliefs. This is simply an observation.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • Observer

      Namor Nahp,

      So you can't figure out the moronic nature of an all-powerful God getting involved in footlball games while ignoring, for instance, the slaughter of 20 children? Are you at all serious?

      January 30, 2013 at 12:10 am |
  6. stevie68a

    I used to make fun of crystals, until I was at a friends house who collected them. I put a fairly large quartz piece on my head,
    and felt a surge of energy go through my body. Also, this material is used in electronics, and indeed, in the very machine
    you're reading this on.
    Also, homeopathy is the basis of the polio cure,no small matter.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • Saraswati

      There is no cure for polio except, if you're lucky, time. Are you talking about the vaccine?

      January 29, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Kurtz: And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God... the genius of that!

      (Apocalypse Now)

      January 29, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • Kim

      Homeopathy is quack medicine. What amounts of active substance that they supposedly have are so tiny that no standard scientific test can detect them. I saw a reporter one drink several vials of a homeopathic treatment that was supposed to be taken with an eyedropper, clearly a massive overdose, and all he could say was that he thought it had a slight smell.

      January 30, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  7. JCFinley

    Why would God want to favor one team/individual of human(s) over another individual/team of human(s). I do not believe that god has anything to do especially with the most overrated overpayed over touted bunch of celebrities. Including movie, music etc. The best talents maybe appreciated but not to be idolized as is done.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • Kim

      How about countries? Did God ever favor America over her enemies, of were our victories entirely due to our own strengths? How about our economy over all others? If not, for what reason is "In God We Trust" on our money?

      January 30, 2013 at 12:23 am |
  8. rad666

    Why do people worship sports when players have to be tested for honesty?

    January 29, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  9. Andrew

    And by the way . . .

    If it's God that's picking the winners, then why are Vegas bookies able to predict winners with such accuracy? Why does the favorite usually win? Why did Catholic Notre Dame get stomped by Alabama? Why is a sinner like Lance Armstrong so successful?"

    I know, I know; "God works in mysterious ways." How convenient.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
  10. stevie68a

    If you think about it, a crucifix is really a voodoo doll! The question becomes. "who does it really represent"?

    January 29, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      It's whatever you need for it to be, stevie68a. Dustin Hoffman used one as a weapon and then as a barricade in The Graduate. That got me interested in this useful object. I found that I could set them up, really realistic ones, in cornfields and frighten Christian tourists. I've seen them in churches too, but I don't know what those are for.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
  11. Andrew

    Whenever I see studies like this, it just blows my mind.

    It's like America is made of two tribes; one of which embraces science and education, and the primitives that live among us that still look to the sky for answers. Crazy.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  12. Reggie

    We have stopped evolving as a species.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Oh, not so. Kurt Vonnegut pointed out that we may be evolving away from intelligence and all the baggage that goes with it. He thought we may become seals one day.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • Saraswati

      We have less survival based selection, but a lot more selection based on selective mating. A higher percent than ever of people now go childless and the pattern of who has children and how many is far from random. We may not be evolving in a direction that is similar to previous trajectories, but change continues to take place.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
  13. axolotl

    God: 27% of humans are idiots.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      That number surely must be higher than 27%.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Jimmy Joe, I'm sure there are independent segments who think chrystals hold special powers, homeopathy is medicine, people have "free will" that acts outside physical laws, and there is an invisible power of chi running through our bodies...not to mention a bunch of other stuff. Lots of silly ideas out there...this is just a slice. Don't worry, the numbers will add up to roughly 100% when it's all counted up.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Make that 'crystals"...

      January 29, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      @Saraswati: I'm pretty sure I'd put you in that 27%.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I'll take it then that you were serious on your chi post.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
  14. wait..what?

    i pray to God for the jaguars to at least have a winning season but he never answers my prayers! But then again, he does answer my prayers when I want a player to get hurt.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • Observer

      Wait to see if the Jets release Tim Tebow.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  15. Guester

    That makes less than zero sense anyway you slice it.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
  16. Mark

    27% of Americans are retarded.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Theistically challenged is the modern term, Mark. I just made it up.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • C'est moi

      The real number is a lot bigger than 25%. Have you checked a white house in the DC area?

      January 29, 2013 at 11:18 pm |

    No god. None.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
  18. maxtexas

    I guess god made Lance take the EPO and win 7 tour de frances ...... That explains it.
    Lance ! Here is a way of getting a quarter of the people support you again 🙂

    January 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • movingon

      Actually, Armstrong has stated that he is an atheist. Of course he might have been lying about that....

      January 30, 2013 at 12:01 am |
  19. DaveLake

    Have every church in the US pray together at the same time this Sunday for god to stop cancer. That would be a request by millions! Something tells me on Monday doctors are still going to see their patients. However I am sure there is a slick answer why god did not do anything.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • Saraswati

      While I would of course be very happy for the cancer patients if this worked, I would find it very depressing to find there was such an ass of a god out there that he made decisions about random people's lives based on how many people prayed.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
  20. lionlylamb

    Until anyone can tell me that the inner realms of the atomized cosmologies are NOT like our celestial realms especially within the cellular realms of living cosmologies, I will believe that the kingdom domains of superior beings lay upon our bodies deeply seeded insides upon each and every life form known.

    January 29, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Well, then. I'm sure no one will attempt to tell you anything of the sort. Whatever it is.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Guester

      Put the bong down now!

      January 29, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • Jimmy Joe Jim Bob

      I said precisely the same thing today!

      January 29, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I think you are saying that you want to lay living cellular yet celestial atomized cosmologies deeply into the kindgom domains of superior beings. Good luck with that, lionlylamb. Please be sure to report back.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      All scoffers and ridiculers and not a one good reasoned rebuttal among the lot of you!

      We or our embodiments are just containers wherein and upon the bodied insides lives superior beings of such a finitely small scale, they are as unaware of our being just the same ways the vast majorities of our being remains dumbfounded and agast

      January 29, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Are we actually transparent to them, lionlylamb? Even invisible. Baryonic, and so beneath their notice? The superior ones are perhaps nootic?

      January 29, 2013 at 11:48 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.