Super Bowl polling: 27 percent of Americans believe God decides who wins

OK, confession time. My belief in the Almighty increases when the Dallas Cowboys are playing. Yes, I’ve been known to drop to my knees and pray for a third-down conversion or two.

I remember telling friends that it was “in God’s hands” the week prior to the Cowboys trip to San Francisco for the 1993 NFC Championship Game. Wow, was that really 20 years ago?

Tim Tebow and the Jets pray before a game. (The Associated Press)

To set the scene, Dallas was supposedly on its way back to league supremacy thanks to dynamic young coach Jimmy Johnson, and the stupendous trade of Herschal Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for what seemed like 46 draft picks.

Dallas rode the Triplets — QB Troy Aikman, RB Emmitt Smith and WR Michael Irvin — to a 13-3 regular season record. They pounded the Eagles in their first playoff game, 34-10.

Still, the Niners were the elite team of the era. And they had home-field advantage. They were installed as a 4-point favorite the week leading up to the game — for amusement purposes only, of course.

So we prayed. I told God we had certainly suffered enough. After all, we were 1-15 in 1989. It was our time for redemption!

I’m not sure if it was God, or Aikman, but when the game ended, Dallas had 30 and the Niners had 20. Troy certainly had a heavenly performance: 322 yards and 2 touchdown passes.

I mention this story because there’s a new poll out by the Public Religion Research Institute. They conducted a survey earlier this month, and asked its random sample of 1,033 adults a bunch of questions about the NFL.

As noted by Deadspin, perhaps the most shocking is that 27 percent of those polled—more than a quarter—believe that “God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event.” Watch a game with three of your buddies. Odds are that one of you wholeheartedly believes that God has a vested interest in the outcome of the game, and will influence it to get His way. This could really throw off Vegas’s lines.

There’s more. You know how athletes, in postgame interviews, often thank God? They believe God is specifically looking out for them and their health. A majority of Americans agree. According to the survey, 53 percent of respondents believe that “God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.”

There’s variation across respondents. Minority Christians and white Evangelicals, as well as Southerners, are the most likely to believe God cares about sporting events and athletes; the religiously unaffiliated, and people from the West and the Northeast, are the least likely to agree.

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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