While 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.
Activist judges found to be least familiar with Commandments
By Deanna Swift
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.
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.
How 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@example.com.