WASHINGTON: More than half of Americans believe they are protected by a guardian angel and two in three are certain that heaven exists, according to a study of US religious beliefs.
The survey, conducted by researchers at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, asked 350 questions about religion to 1,648 adults across the country.
Fifty-five per cent said they believed they were protected from harm by a guardian angel, a figure that researcher Christopher Bader said came as a surprise.
"To find out that more than half of the American public believes this was shocking to me. I did not expect that," he said.
Sixty-seven per cent said they were "absolutely sure" heaven exists and 17 per cent believed it "probably" does. Seventy-three per cent of Americans believe in hell, it found.
Women are more likely than men to believe in heaven (68 per cent to 56 per cent), blacks more than whites (86 per cent to 60 per cent), southerners more than easterners (76 per cent to 50 per cent).
Also, political party was linked to religious beliefs, with 77 per cent of Republicans saying they believed in heaven, compared to 54 per cent of Democrats, said the report released on Thursday.
Those Americans who say they do not believe in God -- four per cent -- as well as those who say they have no religion -- 11 per cent -- were very close the figures in the 2005 survey.
In all 45 per cent of Americans say they have had at least two religious encounters in their lives, the survey found, and conservative Protestants were more likely than Catholics or Jews to report religious or mystical experiences.