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Tom Cruise image for Reuters video.

Reuters

Most Americans do not think Scientology is a true religion, more people would prefer to win an Olympic gold medal than a Pulitzer prize and celebrity endorsements do not carry much weight, according to a new poll released on Monday.

Seventy per cent of respondents to the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll said the controversial Church of Scientology, which is popular with Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, was not a real religion, but 13 percent said that it was.

Religious surveys have estimated that less than 100,000 Americans practice Scientology, which is often branded a cult by its critics.

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"It's a tribute to America's tradition of religious tolerance that Scientology is accepted throughout the country," the survey noted in its analysis of the results.

The poll also showed that brawn trumped brains with 40 per cent of Americans saying they wanted an Olympic gold medal gracing their mantel, while 36 percent would prefer a Pulitzer prize and seven percent wanted an Oscar.

On the home front, the Obamas were the clear choice when it came to which family children might marry into, with 19 percent choosing the presidential family compared with 18 per cent for the Kennedys and the 16 per cent for the British royal family.

On the weightier subject of illegal immigration, 18 per cent of people questioned said that, if they saw a family trying to cross the border from Mexico illegally, they would try to help them, but 41 per cent said they would report them. Thirty percent said they would look the other way.

The poll also revealed that celebrity endorsements are irrelevant, with 89 per cent saying they made no difference. And despite all the focus on personal technology, 70 per cent of people said they would rather lose their smart phone than their wallet.

When asked about giving up chicken or beef, 32 per cent of Americans said they would have the hardest time dropping beef, while 26 percent chose chicken. Pork and lamb were far behind, but nearly a third said they could easily give up all of them.

The telephone poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,027 adults nationwide in August and had a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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