Survey highlights religious diversity of Asian Americans; One in ten are Hindu

Published 04 August 2012  |  
About one in ten Asian Americans are Hindu (10%), and they mostly adopt aspects of America's predominantly Christian culture while also maintaining their traditional beliefs and practices, Pew Research Center's recent poll has found.

According to the poll, Buddhists and Hindus today account for about the same share of the US public as Jews.

While Christians are the largest religious group among US Asian adults (42%), the unaffiliated form comes second (26%), Buddhists are third (14%), followed by Hindus (10%), Muslims (4%) and Sikhs (1%).

Indian Americans represent about 18% of all US Asians, and about half identify as Hindu (51%); 59% say they were raised Hindu. Vietnamese Americans, who comprise 10% of US Asians, include a plurality of Buddhists (43%). US Koreans (also about 10% of all Asian Americans) are mostly Protestant (61%). Japanese Americans, representing about 7.5% of the US Asian populationâ€"are more mixed: more than one-third are Christian (38%, including 33% who are Protestant), another third are unaffiliated and a quarter are Buddhist.

Two-thirds of Buddhists surveyed believe in ancestral spirits (67%), while three-quarters of Hindus keep a shrine in their home (78%) and a majority of Indian-American Hindus say they celebrate Diwali as well as Christmas.

The Pew report further noted that religion appears to be less important to Asian Americans than to the US public as a whole.

For example, fewer Asian Americans say religion is very important in their lives (39% of US Asians vs. 58% of all US adults), while more say religion is either not too important or not at all important to them (30% of US Asians vs. 16% of the general public).

However, Asian-American Buddhists and Asian-American Hindus are much less inclined than Asian-American Christians to say that religion plays a very important role in their lives.

Some of the other findings inform that the lowest intermarriage rate is among Hindus, nearly three-quarters of US Asian Hindus see Yoga not just as exercise but as a spiritual practice (73%), and more than half of Asian-American Hindus say they believe in reincarnation and moksha.

Meanwhile, some eighteen percent of Indian Americans identify as Christian. The higher percentages of Indian American Christians may reflect immigration patterns or switching of religions.

Further, 81% of Asian Americans who were raised Hindu remain Hindu today; 12% have become unaffiliated, and the rest have switched to other faiths

The 182-page Pew report focused on the four major religious groups of Asian Americans: Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and the religiously unaffiliated.

When it comes to political party identification, more Asian-American voters identify with or lean to the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. Seven-in-ten Asian-American Hindu voters (72%) either consider themselves a Democrat or say they lean Democratic.

In terms of education and income, Hindus are at the top of the socioeconomic ladderâ€"not only among Asian-American religious groups but also among all the largest US religious groups. Fully 85% of Asian-American Hindu adults are college graduates, and more than half (57%) have some post-graduate education.

The Pew Research Center's 2012 Asian-American Survey was based on telephone interviews conducted with a nationally representative sample of 3,511 Asian adults ages 18 and older living in the United States. The survey was conducted in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and the District of Columbia.

"As their numbers rise, Asian Americans are contributing to the diversity of the US religious landscape. From less than one percent of the total US population â€" including children â€" in 1965, Asian Americans have increased to 5.8 percent or 18.2 million children and adults in 2011, according to the US Census," said the Pew researchers in an overview of the report.

"In the process, they have been largely responsible for the growth of non-Abrahamic faiths in the United States, particularly Buddhism and Hinduism," noted the report.

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