(CNSNews.com) -- A new Gallup poll shows that only 24% of Americans believe the Bible is the "literal word" of God, which is a decline from the 1970s, but the survey also shows that the number of Americans who think the Bible is the "inspired word" of God, 47%, has stayed pretty steady over the last 40 years.
In addition, an overwhelming majority of Americans, 71%, believe the Bible is a holy document, inspired by God or containing God's own words.
"Fewer than one in four Americans (24%) now believe the Bible is 'the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word,' similar to the 26% who view it as 'a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man,'" reported Gallup on May 15.
"This is the first time in Gallup's four-decade trend that biblical literalism has not surpassed biblical skepticism," said the survey firm. "Meanwhile, about half of Americans -- a proportion largely unchanged over the years -- fall in the middle, saying the Bible is the inspired word of God but that not all of it should be taken literally."
The Gallup polll was conducted May 3 - 7, as part of the firm's annual Values and Beliefs poll.
Back in 1976, Gallup reported that the percentage of American adults who believed the Bible is "the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word" was 38%. It has since fallen 14 percentage points.
For people over age 50, the percentage who took the Bible literally was 45% in 1976. Today, it is 29% for people 50 and over.
In terms of education, the people with "no college" held the highest percentage, 31%, for believing the Bible is the literal word of God. For people with "some college," the percentage was 27%, and "college graduate," 13%.
However, as Gallup confirmed, 47% of American adults believe the Bible is the "inspired word of God," and the "vast majority of Americans -- 71% -- continue to view the Bible as a holy document, believing it is at least God-inspired if not God's own words."