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. Reasonably

    25% of Americans believe in a god who influences sports, but let's the upper East Coast get wiped out by a hurricane.

    It's all about priorities I guess.

    January 29, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  2. Reasonably

    A poll showing 25% of Americans truly believe in magical thinking.

    January 29, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  3. Reasonably

    Did they specify in the poll that it's the judeo-christian god that influences sports?

    January 29, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  4. Mohammad A Dar

    ya, not all Gods, but performance enhancing drug God influences sporting events.

    January 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
  5. Moby Schtick

    Morons. God is invisible and undetectable; that means he doesn't influence sporting events. Stupid.

    January 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Bob Crossuck, Christian

      YES HE DOES!!!!!

      God uses the gaps to influence sporting events. You know, Half Time wardrobe failures, Rosanna Barr screeching the National Anthem in the pre-game gap, the commercial breaks, that sort of thing.

      January 29, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • Carl

      If god is undetectable, then your belief in him has no connection to whether or not he exists.

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

      Yes morons. The thing that Moby worships is completely invisible and undetectable in any way. Moby's god doesn't influence anything, ever! Duh!

      January 30, 2013 at 12:05 am |
  6. Observer

    One quarter of all Americans believe that God can't take 5 seconds to prove to the world that he exists (saving billions of people from hell), but has time to decide if he will answer the prayers of the Christians on offense or the Christians on defense.

    January 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Zingo

      Letting himself be known would ruin the entrapment.

      January 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Why not? I'm pretty sure that almost all believers of any kind think god is on their side during a war, in spite of the obvious – that half of the time they've got to be wrong.

      January 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Susan, I think the idea behind the Gita is a bit different, but I'd still agree with most believers.

      January 30, 2013 at 12:08 am |
  7. K-switch

    That could explain why Bama has back to back championships, center of the Bible belt and all. ROLL TIDE!

    January 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • hey

      What about all the times they lost?

      January 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      What color does Bama wear? Something about crimson reminds me more of satan than god.

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

      It is much more likely that they win because they are cheating like crazy. It is the NCAA after all.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  8. bostontola

    Very sad. Even if you believe in god, how do you think god cares who wins a game?

    January 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  9. lunchbreaker

    So what percentage thinks the devil can influence sports? I'm sure more than one person has tride to sell thier soul for a win.

    January 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Lance says Hi.

      January 29, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Carl

      No, Lance says, "I'm tired of buying the souls of all these athletes, maybe I'll save some money and just play myself."

      January 29, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
  10. Bob

    A quarter of Americans are either delusional or mentally handicapped. There are no gods, ghosts, or fairies. Grow up people.

    January 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Zingo

      Actually, they are just plain stupid.

      the average IQ is 100, and if you talk to people of that IQ, well, you won't be impressed. 50% are at or below an IQ of 100. The bottom 25%? That's your demographic here. Just plain stupid.

      Funny how when you get to the highest IQs, the rate of secularism and atheism skyrocket.

      January 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Carl


      Yes. But to be fair, we also have to acknowledge that higher IQs sometimes results in people who think chess is the most important game in the world.

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

      Carl, no one was ever shot over a game of chess. Coin flips and dice, yeah.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  11. Banjo Ferret

    Tim the Destroyer of Worlds cares not about influencing sporting events, even though he is a proud supporter of Manchester United and the Ukrainian women's water polo team. Although, Tim encourages athletes to play air banjo after big plays in order to pay respect to Ferretianism, the one true religion. Repent! (banjoferret d c)

    January 29, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Fun Fun Fun

      Lance, Strong-Armed Destroyer of His Own Credibility, Would happily battle Tim in a unicycle race . . . if there are no drug tests first.

      The Membership rolls of the East German Athletes Association are growing and growing:
      Lance Armstrong
      Barry Bonds
      Marion Jones
      David Ortiz
      Lenny Dykstra
      Jose Canseco
      Floyd Landis

      January 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  12. lionlylamb

    Dick Tracy hover craft!


    Tron's Light Cycle is a reality!


    January 29, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Whoever thinks that is a motorcycle does not ride a motorcycle.

      January 29, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  13. In Santa we trust

    Surely if a god influenced sports, Tim Tebow would be the winningest QB in history.

    January 29, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  14. Sam Yaza

    didn't we do this already


    their is a reason why patriots are awesome

    January 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • Reality

      Obviously, the god of Flacco is greater than the Brady god.

      January 29, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      oh fyi i have not being paying much attention to football this year do to i have a life i posted this with out reading the article and i assumed the pat were in the Superbowl on account of the awesome but the only thing that can cause the pats from losing out is an injury, but i digress

      go patriots

      January 29, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady walk into a bar...

      ...to watch the Super Bowl.


      January 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  15. Robert Brown

    Here is a little glimpse at what God’s angels were up to in Daniels day.

    From Daniel 10, this is an angel speaking to Daniel.

    12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.

    13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.

    20 Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come.

    21 But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.

    Daniel 11:1
    Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.

    There is open warfare in the spiritual realm, the angel that came to Daniel was delayed 21 days by one of Satans princes. It appears that God is carrying on with his plan and Satan is doing everything he can to prevent it. In this example the angels are fighting satans princes to affect world events, are there wars in the spiritual realm over ball games? I don’t know, but it seems they are busy fighting over a little more important things.

    January 29, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Why does someone omnipotent need a plan?

      Either he is or is not Omnipotent.

      Can't have it both ways

      January 29, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      don't forget to put "Once upon a time..." at the beginning of your story next time.

      January 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • Science

      @RB thought the pope tossed out the angels last month.

      January 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Why does God need a spaceship.... ummm... quarterback.... anyway – if he wants them to win, the ball floats into the end zone by itself.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  16. Dyslexic doG

    Students in Texas' public schools are still learning that the Bible provides scientific evidence that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that astronauts have discovered "a day missing in space in elapsed time" that affirms biblical stories of the sun standing still and moving backwards, and that the United States was founded as a Christian nation based on biblical Christian principles.


    January 29, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • William Demuth

      That is why the Mexicans will be running that backwards hell hole in no time.

      January 29, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • sam

      Good old Texas, the ass end of 'murica.

      January 29, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Fun to know that most school texts are vetted in Texas as well.


      January 29, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • hey

      Texas public schools are dumb and their text books are unduly influenced by clergy and not science. You are making the rest up as well.

      January 29, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  17. William Demuth

    In a world where children starve to death, would a God that concerns himself with sport be worthy of worship?

    How many prayers of desperation from parents forced to endure the horrific death of their children does Jeebus ignore so he can make the spread on a Celtics game?

    January 29, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Carl

      It seems cruel, but those kids had terrible preseason stats.

      January 29, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
  18. Dyslexic doG

    What day are all these sports people working on? God said you shouldn't work on a sunday!

    Oh, what's that, you've found some bible quotes to justify anything you want to do?

    what a joke!

    January 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  19. Colin

    If ever one needed proof that the US education system has been a dismal failure for a generation, this is it. A whopping 25% believe that some hokey Bronze Age Palestinian sky-fairy actually intervenes to influence sporting events. Wow, just....wow.

    Then again, about 40% think the entire Universe is 1about 0,000 years old and started with a possessed, talking snake.

    January 29, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Science

      And a rib bone.. They can not swallow either. They have to swallow the talking snake.

      January 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Aldewacs

      Let's recall that most of these sports "heroes" are grade school dropouts, and all they remember is their religious indoctrinations. Their IQ approaches their hat size. And all muscles, except their brain, have been developed to the max to the exclusion of all else.

      January 31, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  20. William Demuth

    Gott ist tot Und der Krieg begonnen

    January 29, 2013 at 3:54 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.