Dec. 20, 2005 — -- Vast majorities of Americans believe in heaven and think they're headed there. But elbow room won't be a problem: About eight in 10 believers envision heaven as a place where people exist only spiritually, not physically.
Eighty-nine percent in this ABC News poll believe in heaven, which is consistent with data going back 30 years. Among believers, 85 percent think they'll personally go there -- mainly in spirit, since 78 percent say it's a place where people exist only spiritually.
Who gets in is another matter. Among people who believe in heaven, one in four thinks access is limited to Christians. More than a third of Protestants feel that way, and this view peaks at 55 percent among Protestants who describe themselves as very religious.
Among all adults, 79 percent are Christians, 14 percent have no religion, and the rest, 5 percent, are non-Christians. Among Christian groups, Catholics account for 21 percent of adults; evangelical Protestants, 19 percent; and non-evangelical Protestants, 13 percent.
There are fewer differences among religious groups on the question of whether heaven is a physical or spiritual place. Belief that it's a physical place peaks at 22 percent among Protestants who describe themselves as very religious.
As noted, people without a religion are the least likely to believe in heaven (51 percent do, 46 percent don't), followed by people who describe themselves as not religious (72 percent of them do believe, 26 percent don't). Non-religious people who do believe in heaven are slightly less likely than others to think they'll personally go there, but it's a still high 77 percent
Another way to look at views on heaven is among all Americans, rather than just those who believe in heaven. Among all Americans, 75 percent think they'll go to heaven. The rest include 5 percent who believe in heaven but don't think they'll get there; 9 percent who believe but aren't sure they'll get in; and 10 percent who don't believe in heaven.
Similarly, among all Americans, 21 percent think that only people who are Christians can go to heaven. Among the rest, 60 percent think both Christians and non-Christians can get in, 7 percent are unsure and 10 percent don't believe.
There's a difference between the sexes: Eighty percent of women think they're going to heaven, compared with 69 percent of men. That's both because men are slightly less apt to believe in heaven in the first place, and among those who do believe, slightly less apt to think they're headed there.
But it's religion, again, that seems to be the driving force in the difference between the sexes: Women are 12 points more likely than men to describe themselves as religious, and being religious helps fuel belief in heaven, and the expectation of getting there.
METHODOLOGY -- This ABC News poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 5-9, 2005, among a random national sample of 1,023 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Fieldwork by ICR-International Communications Research of Media, Pa.