Although many Americans (41 percent) believe the Second Coming will happen soon, slightly more people (46 percent) say Jesus will definitely or probably not return.
The prediction is divided along religious lines with 58 percent of white evangelical Protestants saying it will definitely or probably happen in the next 40 years. By contrast, only 27 percent of white mainline Protestants, about a third (32 percent) of Catholics and a fifth (20 percent) of religiously unaffiliated say Jesus Christ will return to Earth in this period.
Pew noted the figure for those who believe Jesus is returning is not surprising. Forty-four percent expressed the same belief in 1999.
But the figures were much higher than a 2007 Ipsos poll that asked Americans if they believe Jesus would return to Earth that same year.
Only 25 percent of respondents said it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that Jesus will return to Earth. Predictably, evangelical Christians were most likely (46 percent) out of the religious groups polled to say it was somewhat likely that Jesus return in 2007.
By comparison, 17 percent of Catholics and 10 percent of those with no religion said Jesus would return.
According to the Pew survey, respondents with a higher education level are less likely to believe Jesus will return in that time period.
Only 19 percent of those who graduated from college expect Jesus to return by 2050, while 35 percent of those with some college experience and 59 percent of Americans with no college experience expect the Second Coming in the next few decades.
More than three in five Americans (65 percent) say they predict religion in the United States will be just as important in 40 years as it is now, according to the Pew study. Thirty percent say religion will be less important.
Results from the survey are based on telephone interviews conducted April 21-26, 2010, among a national sample of 1,546 adults.