Evangelicals use 3.4 media formats for 'spiritual purposes' - survey

For religious study, six out of 10 would rather read in print.

 Couple reads the Bible (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Couple reads the Bible
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Evangelical Christians consume their spiritual messages from a variety of different media, according to a survey released by Infinity Concepts and Grey Matter this month.

The average Evangelical uses 3.4 different media formats for spiritual purposes, the survey found, highlighting “the strength of specifically Christian media among Evangelicals,” according to the survey. 

Over one-third of Evangelicals use printed books (43%), broadcast, cable or satellite television (38%) and websites (36%) to consume spiritual content. When looking more broadly, three out of four who watch TV watch at least some Christian television; eight out of 10 who stream videos stream at least some Christian video content; and nine out of 10 who listen to the radio listen to at least some Christian radio, the survey showed. 

The study also found that to obtain news and information or do research, Evangelicals prefer to use the Internet over print – 57% prefer reading news on the Internet and 69% prefer doing their research on the Internet. 

Man consumes Internet media (Credit: Ingimage)Man consumes Internet media (Credit: Ingimage)

The report – the seventh in a series – is based on a survey of more than 1,000 American Evangelicals, defined as people who agrees with the following principles: The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe; it is important for me to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their savior; Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin; and only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

According to Infinity and Grey Matter, Evangelicals by this definition amount to 23% of American adults – about 59 million people.

Its purpose, the authors said when publishing results, was to evaluate the “digital divide” among Evangelicals.

“The ‘digital divide’ generally refers to people who have access to modern information and communications technology versus those who do not… But there is another kind of digital divide: that of preference,” they wrote. “This digital divide by preference is alive and well within the Evangelical population. As newer forms of media have emerged, such as podcasts and streaming video, the Evangelical population (like the general population) has varied considerably in their willingness to adopt newer media. 

“And now that we have an explosion of choices, evangelicals are taking advantage of this, varying their preferences according to what they are using the media for.”

Additionally, there has been “controversy” around what constitutes “Christian media.” For the survey, the authors defined it as media that is specifically Christian, not just that which is family-friendly, inspirational or has a “good message.” Anything else they referred to as “mainstream” media.

When looking at general media habits, the survey found that 60% to 80% of Evangelicals use a mix of Christian and mainstream media. In fact, out of 1,017 Evangelicals surveyed, only two said they use no specifically Christian media and only around 10 people said they use no mainstream media and rely completely on Christian content. 

Use of Christian media is higher among lower-income (below $30,000 annually) Evangelicals, the survey showed. 

“Across the seven types of media, the average low-income evangelical dedicates 48% to Christian media, compared to 39% for evangelicals with household incomes above $30,000,” according to the report.

Logically, the more religious and spiritually engaged an individual is, the more likely the person is to consume Christian media. 

As such Evangelicals who are Pentecostal or charismatic average 49% compared Christian media consumption compared to 38% who are not Pentecostal or charismatic. Similarly, people who attend the church at least once a month consume 42% Christian content compared to 32% who attend irregularly or not at all. And Evangelicals who read the Bible at least once a week, consume 44% Christian content compared to 31% among less frequent Bible readers. 

The older generation – people 55 and older – is also more likely not to consume spiritual content outside of the church than their younger Evangelical counterparts.

Woman reading a book (Credit: Ingimage)Woman reading a book (Credit: Ingimage)

Print media still alive among Evangelicals

The survey specifically evaluated the use of print media in an era where it seems that the world has turned digital and found that in certain situations Evangelicals of all ages would prefer reading in print.

“What we learn is that preference varies significantly by what type of reading they are doing,” the authors wrote. “For news and information, 57% prefer reading websites, while 26% would opt for a printed copy of the information (magazine, newspaper, etc.). They also prefer the web when doing research (69% prefer the Internet, with 24% wanting the printed page). 

“However, for pleasure reading, it is exactly the opposite,” the report continued. “Sixty-five percent would rather hold ‘tree ware’ in their hands than read a website (14%) or an e-reader (14%).”

For religious study specifically, six out of 10 would rather read in print.

And, for pleasure reading, 50% of Evangelicals under 40 said they would still rather hold a book or magazine in their hands. 

“Despite the stereotype that younger adults want to do everything digitally, among Evangelicals under age 40, print is preferred to the Internet two-to-one for religious study or learning (54% to 27%),” the survey found.