The decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem comes during a week during which I’m researching for a chapter in my next book examining how apocalypticism underwrites climate denial and war. Two big problems: (1) we don’t closely track how many Americans believe the world will end son (we really should keep better data on this!), and (2) this type of belief is a background ideological state that doesn’t necessarily influence policy opinions. But here are a few of the numbers we have:
(TL;DR version: somewhere between a fifth a little over a third of Americans don't expect a 22nd century)
In a 2010 Pew survey survey, 41% of Americans believed Christ will return in the next four decades (definitely 23%, probably 18%). 48% of all American Christians, 58% of white Evangelicals, 32% of Catholics, and 54% of all Protestants believed Christ will definitely or probably return in four decades, as did 59% of those with no college experience (compared to 19% of college graduates). Among all U.S. Christians, only 10% said Christ will definitely not return in the next four decades.
In a 2011 Pew global survey of Evangelical leaders, 54% of Evangelical leaders believed Christ will definitely/probably return in their lifetimes, and 61% believed in the Rapture. 67% of Global South leaders and 34% of Global North leaders believed Christ would return in their lifetime.
In a 2006 Pew survey, 79% of American Christians believed Christ would return to earth someday. Among those who believed this, 25% of Christians said this would happen in their lifetime, and 49% said it would not. Also among those who believe Christ will return, 43% expect the world situation to worsen before Christ arrives.
In a 2012 Ipsos poll, 14% of people worldwide and 22% of Americans believed the world will end in their lifetime.
In a 2012 PRRI survey, 36% of Americans (65% of white Evangelicals, 21% Catholics) believed natural disasters are evidence that we are living in the end times.
In a 2013 OmniPollSM survey, 41% (54% of Protestants, 77% of Evangelicals) believed we are living in the Biblical end times. (Caveat: this was conducted for a client who owns the original research, so I haven’t verified the methodology and data, but that 77% number would be huge if we could verify).
In a 2016 Lifeway survey of Protestant pastors, only 25% say the rapture is not a literal event. Pastors with master’s or doctoral degrees were four times as likely to reject the rapture as a literal event. Only 6% of pastors with no college degree and 16% of pastors with a bachelor’s degree rejected the idea of a literal rapture.
In a 2013 Lifeway poll, 18% of Americans believed the world would end in their lifetime, while 70% disagreed. By income, 30% of those in household making under $25,000 believed the world would end in their lifetime, while only 9% of those in households over $75,000 agreed. 24% of Americans 18-29 years believed the world would end in their lifetime, as did 15% of people over 65.
In a 2015 Brookings Institution survey, only 5% of American Christians and 12% of Evangelicals believed Christ would return in their lifetimes, but 79% of Evangelicals believed "that the unfolding violence across the Middle East is a sign that the end times are nearer.”
In the current data from Yale Climate Communications, 69% of Americans believe global warming is happening, 52% believe it is caused by humans, and only 48% believe scientists agree that global warming is happening.
In a 2017 CNN tracking poll, 70% agree global warming is happening, and 55% agree that it is caused by humans.
In a 2017 Pew survey, 74% of Americans agree the earth is warming (92% of Democrats, 52% of Republicans). 78% of Democrats and 24% of Republicans believe global warming is caused by humans. 21% of Republicans say there is no evidence for global warming because it just is not happening, and 22% of Republicans say there is no solid evidence to know whether the earth is warming.
- If you have additional data on apocalyptic belief in the U.S., I want it!