Two-fifths of born again Christians believe that prayer can make you wealthier and 24% of them think that wealth is a sign of God's favor
Comedian John Oliver took aim at cable televangelists and the 'gospel of prosperity' on a recent episode of Last Week Tonight. Using the examples of cancer patients who gave away their meager savings to preachers enjoying trips in church owned private jets to ski lodges, Oliver noted that the American tax code makes running a religious organization a potential source of immense personal wealth. A few church leaders have leveraged their positions at the head of television ministries and megachurches to build large personal fortunes as they preach a religious doctrine which claims that your financial success in this world reflects your standing with God.
YouGov's research shows that a large majority of Americans (73%) do not believe that wealth is a sign of God's favor. Even most born again Christians (56%) disagree with that belief, though born again Christians (24%) are more than twice as likely as the rest of the country (10%) to believe that God favors the wealthy.
Nearly two-thirds of the public (62%) also agree that it is unacceptable for religious leaders to become very wealthy as a result of their religious works, but born again Christians (26%) are nearly twice as likely as all other Americans (16%) to say that this is acceptable.
18% of Americans believe that prayer can make you wealthier, but born again Christians (38%) are nearly three times as likely as the rest of the population (13%) to believe this. Belief that prayer can improve your health is, however, a much more popular article of faith. 64% of Americans believe in the health benefits of prayer, including 54% of Americans who are not born again Christians.
The American public is split right down the middle on the thorny issue of whether or not religious organizations should be exempt from taxation. 40% of Americans think that they should be exempt, while 40% think that they should not be. There is a strong partisan element to opinion on this issue, though a significant minority among both Republicans and Democrats disagree with the majority opinion of their fellow partisans.
Democrats oppose tax exempt status for religious organizations 52% to 32% while Republicans support it 57% to 25%. Independents are effectively split, with 40% saying that religious organizations should not be tax exempt and 36% saying that they should be.
Overall, televangelists generally have a poor reputation among the American public. 59% of Americans have unfavorable opinions of preachers and ministers who broadcast on TV, while only 23% have a favorable opinion of them.