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What religious groups do Americans like the least? According to a recent study, Buddhism is one of the least popular religions in the United States—second only to Islam. The study was conducted as part of research for the new book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert Putnam and David Campbell, due out on October 5. Newsweek‘s religion editor, Lisa Miller, explains the study in “Our State of Disgrace”:

While researching their forthcoming book about American religion, the Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam and his colleagues polled on this hypothetical question: Say a group of Buddhists wanted to build a large temple in your community. How would you feel? Putnam & Co. asked about Buddhists because, they had discovered, Buddhists are one of the least popular religious groups in the country. People like Buddhists less than they do atheists and Mormons—and only slightly more than they do Muslims. Like Muslims, Buddhists “do not have a place in what has come to be called America’s Judeo-Christian framework,” Putnam and his coauthor, David Campbell, write in American Grace. What they found was, in light of the recent controversy over the proposed community center and mosque near Ground Zero, disturbing but not surprising. Three quarters of Americans said they would support a large Buddhist temple in their community, but only 15 percent would explicitly welcome one. Americans, in other words, supported the idea of a temple but weren’t so crazy about the bricks-and-mortar aspect of things.

Though Campbell and Putnam may not have had a particular temple in mind when they began their research several years ago, their study helps to explain recent opposition to the building of a Buddhist temple in Walnut, California. 

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