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Public Opinion Varies Widely on Religious Freedom’s Value

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Freedom of religion is among the most highly valued rights worldwide, but public appreciation of this human right varies widely between nations, according to a Pew Research Center report published Feb. 27.

Among all respondents from 34 nations, 68% said it was “very important” to have freedom of religion in their country, trailing only fair judiciary (82%) and gender equality (74%) among principles, rights and freedoms surveyed.

By comparison, 65% said regular elections were very important, followed by free speech (64%), press freedom (64%), internet freedom (59%), human rights groups operating freely (55%) and opposition parties being able to operate freely (54%).

Despite the overall high marks, affirmation of religious freedom’s importance varied significantly between citizens of different nations.

Of the 34 nations surveyed, 17 nations were above the global average, with 69% or more of respondents saying freedom of religion was very important in those countries.

Nigeria had the highest number of respondents affirming this view at 88%, followed closely by the U.S. at 86%.

In six nations, the most common response among the surveyed principles and rights was to affirm religious freedom as very important. It was the second most common response in five nations.

By contrast, 17 nations were below the global average, with 67% or fewer respondents affirming religious freedom as very important.

Japan had the lowest percentage of respondents affirming this view at 18%, followed by Russia at 42%. In seven countries, this was the least common response.

The full report is available here.