February 1, 2013  – With perhaps the biggest sporting event of the year coming up this weekend, Barna Group looks at the influence of athletes and the role faith plays in American sports. A new study from Barna shows most Americans believe sports figures have a greater influence than do professional clergy or other faith leaders.

Athletes Top Pastors There is plenty of research to show the declining sway of clergy, but who are Americans looking to instead? By more than a three-to-one margin, Americans believe professional sports players have more influence on society than do faith leaders. Overall, about two-thirds of Americans (64%) say they think pro athletes have more influence in American society today than do professional faith leaders (19%). Others say both (8%) have equal influence or are not sure (10%).

Sports figures are deemed most influential by those making $60,000-plus, college graduates, whites and parents. Those most likely to select faith leaders were weekly church attenders and those with incomes under $40,000.

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