According to the poll, only three in 10 Americans interpret the Bible literally considering it to be the actual Word of God.
Although the finding is similar to what Gallup has measured over the last two decades, it is down from the 1970s and 1980s.
The poll said a 49 percent plurality of Americans say the Bible is the inspired word of God but that it should not be taken literally, consistently the most common view in Gallup’s nearly 40-year history of this question. Another 17 percent consider the Bible an ancient book of stories recorded by man.
The findings are based on a May 5-8 Gallup poll.
Gallup said the high point in the percentage of Americans favoring a literal interpretation of the Bible was 40 percent, recorded in 1980 and 1984. The low point was 27 percent in 2001.
Among most major U.S. subgroups, a plurality or majority holds the view that the Bible is the inspired word of God, rather than the actual word of God or a book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts. Highly religious Americans and those who have less formal education are exceptions to this general pattern. A majority, 54%, of those who attend religious services on a weekly basis believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, more than twice the percentage of those who attend church less often, the Gallup report said.
Stating that belief in a literal interpretation of a Bible declines as educational attainment increases, the Gallup report said 46 percent of Americans with a high school education or less take the Bible literally, compared with no more than 22 percent of Americans with at least some college education. The majority of Americans with at least some college education believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God.
Gallup has consistently found strong differences in views of the Bible as the ‘actual word of God’ by religiosity and education. The current poll also finds significant income differences, with 50 percent of lower-income respondents believing the Bible is the actual word of God, compared with 27 percent of middle-income and 15 percent of high-income respondents. These income differences are larger than what Gallup has measured in the past, with a higher percentage of low-income Americans believing the Bible is literally true.