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June 28, 2005

Few Americans Familiar with More than Four of Ten Commandments

Commandments_thumbWhile the Ten Commandments are increasingly popular in both text and tablet form, a new poll has found that few Americans are familiar with more than four of them. The Biblical bans on murder, theft, and adultery ranked highest among adults surveyed, while only a handful were familiar with Commandments prohibiting graven images and false witness.

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By Deanna Swift

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WASHINGTON, DC—On the heels of a Supreme Court ruling that bars public buildings from erecting massive tributes to the stone tablets handed down to Moses by God, a new poll has found that few Americans are familiar with more than four of the Ten Commandments.

That finding comes at a time when support for the Ten Commandments is at an all time high, with an estimated 32% of Americans regularly calling into talk radio shows, writing letters to the editor or hectoring family and friends about the importance of the Ten Commandments—despite not knowing what most of them are.

Among most recognizable... murder, theft  and coveting servants, wives and donkeys

Written in stone
The new poll, based on 2,130 telephone interviews conducted over the weekend, found that fewer than 10% of Americans were able to define more than four of the Commandments. Among the most recognizable of the Biblical bans were the prohibitions against murder, theft and adultery, and coveting the wives, male servants, oxen or donkeys of a neighbor.

While the First, Second, and Third Commandments come in tops on the list of the religious and moral imperatives, few Americans were able to state with any certainty what those Commandments actually say. The stone tablet topper reads that "I am the Lord, thy God." Number three weighs in with a prohibition against "graven images."

America voted and the Commandment is:
Surveyors for Polltronics Inc., the firm that conducted the poll, also collected information on what Americans believed the Ten Commandments to be. According to the results of the survey, 23% of Americans believe that the Second Commandment, a righteous reminder not to make graven images, is actually the right to bear arms. Thirty-one percent said that the Ninth Commandment, the ban on bearing false witness, was a prohibition against removing Ten Commandments statues from public buildings.

Abraham_1How this poll was conducted
Samples for Polltronics polls are random digit samples of telephone numbers selected using the "probability proportionate to size" method, which means numbers from across the country are selected in proportion to the number of voters in each state. Individuals who did not answer their phones were assumed to be visiting a Ten Commandments monument in their area or planning a future visit to such a monument.

In order to ensure a distribution of ages and genders within households, the interviewer selects the respondent by asking to speak to the adult with the next birthday. Quotas are applied to ensure the sample mirrors the proportions of voters nationally. Specifically, the aim is for a gender split nationwide of 53% female / 47% male, as well as regional quotas.

The RDD selected phone numbers are sent to the interviewers through computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) software. Both the software and human supervisors monitor each step of the interviewing process. While calls are automatically dialed, the system does not use predictive dialing so prospective respondents always find a live interviewer when they answer their phone.

What's your favorite Commandment? Talk back to Deanna Swift at [email protected].

June 28, 2005 | Permalink

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According to a new poll reported by the Swift Report most Americans are only familiar with four of the Ten Commandments. Apparently we know for sure that we are not supposed to murder, steal, commit adultery and covet the wives, [Read More]

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Tracked on Jun 30, 2005 10:27:51 AM

Comments

Interesting that everyone seems to assume a solidarity on the 10 commandments. In fact, Protestants usually use the version which appears in the first Exodus from chapter 20. Roman Chatholics, on the other hand use the version which appears in Deuteronomy. This does create differences, for example the 6th commandment:

Exod. 20:8-11 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.

Deut. 5:17 You shall not murder.

Thus it would appear that TW was schooled by the RC

Posted by: DocNightHawk | Jul 14, 2005 10:31:54 AM

See how many of the 10 commandments George Bush has yet to violate!

http://www.cercy.net/commandments.html

Posted by: Greg | Jun 28, 2005 11:45:54 PM

living in these times in America I would have thought that the most ignored must be the sixth.All those of you who support the war, capital punishment etc. etc. bite your tongues.

Posted by: TW | Jun 28, 2005 11:00:34 PM

living in these times in America I would have thought that the most ignored must be the sixth.All those of you who support the war, capital punishment etc. etc. bite your tongues.

Posted by: TW | Jun 28, 2005 10:59:36 PM

Here is what my uncle Mo had to say:

1. I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

3. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.

I could add a few more relevant ones, but I am worried about pissing off my cruel daddy...

Posted by: stupidsexyjesus | Jun 28, 2005 4:56:53 PM

What?!? Where's the commandment about being "homosexual"?!?

Oh. That's right. I forgot.

Resume your coveting, America.

Posted by: Mark | Jun 28, 2005 10:36:37 AM

I usually remember Sleepy, Happy, and Grumpy, but I get a little fuzzy after that.

How about Snoopy?

Posted by: CryptoCat | Jun 28, 2005 10:11:25 AM

Having lived most of my life in an "evangelical" part of the country, around the folks who love to push issues like this the most, I can tell you one commandment many of these devout church-goers are familiar with...the one about adultery. They're familiar with it, of course, because about 2/3 of them have broken it...religiously, you might say! :) With all the talk about how Hollywood breaks up married and family life, someone ought to focus on the "marriage mortality" rate of your typical conservative Christian Protestant church. I think it was Steinbeck who noted, long ago, just how much fornicating went on in and around tent revivals and the holy rollers. It hasn't really changed since then.

Posted by: Tom McMahan | Jun 28, 2005 7:04:25 AM

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