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Five Key Findings on Religion in the U.S.

12/23/16

Gallup

FrankNewport

STORYHIGHLIGHTS

•     Almost eight in 10 identify with areligion, mostly Christian

•     21% have no religious identity, up from 15%in 2008

•     Over seven in 10 say religion is losing itsinfluence in U.S. society

PRINCETON, N.J. –Religion remains an integral part of most Americans’ lives, but Gallup’songoing research shows how this has changed over time. The following are fiveimportant findings about religion in the U.S.:

1.America remains a largely Christian nation, although less so than in the past. Seventy-four percent of Americans identifywith a Christian religion, and 5% identify with a non-Christian religion. Therest of the U.S. adult population, about 21%, either say they don’t have aformal religious identity or don’t give a response.

ReligiousIdentification in the U.S.: 2016

%

Protestant/Other Christian

Catholic

Mormon

Jewish

Muslim

Other non-Christian religion

None/Atheist/Agnostic

No response given

Based on 173,229 interviews conducted Jan. 2-Dec. 19, 2016

GALLUP

The dominance ofChristianity in the U.S. is not new, but it has changed over time. The U.S. hasseen an increase in those with no formal religious identity (sometimes called”nones”) and a related decrease in those identifying with a Christianreligion. Since 2008, when Gallup began tracking religion on its daily survey,the “nones” have increased by six percentage points, while thoseidentifying as Christian have decreased by six points. The 5% who identify witha non-Christian religion has stayed constant.

In the late 1940s and1950s, when Gallup began regularly measuring religious identity, over nine in10 American adults identified as Christian — either Protestant or Catholic –with most of the rest saying they were Jewish.

2.The trend away from formal religion continues. The most significant trend in Americans’religiosity in recent decades has been the growing shift away from formal orofficial religion. About one in five U.S. adults (21%) don’t have a formalreligious identity. This represents a major change from the late 1940s and1950s when only 2% to 3% of Americans did not report a formal religiousidentity when asked about it in Gallup surveys. The increase in those claimingno religious identity began in the 1970s, with the percentage crossing the 10%threshold in 1990 and climbing into the teens in the 2000s.

Americans are alsosignificantly less likely now than they were in the past to claim membership ina church, synagogue or mosque. In 1937, when Gallup first asked about churchmembership, 73% said they were a member of a church. This figure dropped intothe upper 60% range in the 1980s and continued to decrease from that point on.It fell to its lowest point of 54% in 2015 but increased slightly to 56% thisyear.

Self-reported churchattendance is also lower than it has been in past decades — although perhapsnot as low as might be expected, given the drop in church membership and theincrease in the percentage of those with no religious identity.

Gallup’slongest-running religious service attendance question asks, “Did you,yourself, happen to attend church, synagogue or mosque in the last seven days,or not?” In 1939, when Gallup first asked this question, 41% said”yes.” That percentage dropped to 37% in 1940 and rose to 39% in1950. It continued to climb, reaching as high as 49% at multiple points in the1950s. Attendance then settled down to figures around 40% for decades, beforedropping to 36% for the past three years.

3.A majority still say religion is important in their lives. A majority of Americans (53%) say thatreligion is “very important” in their lives. This is down marginallyfrom recent years, but the trend over time has shown less of a decline thanhave other religious indicators such as religious identification or churchmembership. In 1965, 70% said that religion was “very important” intheir lives, but figures have since ranged from 52% to 61%. The percentagereporting that religion is “very important” hit the low end of thisrange in the 1980s and has done so again in more recent years. The 53% who sayreligion is “very important” this year is low on a relative basis butis similar to what Gallup measured in 1978 and 1987.

A different questionincluded on Gallup Daily tracking since 2008 offers two choices, asking ifreligion is “important in your daily life” or not. Sixty-four percentof those interviewed in 2016 say that religion is important, down two pointssince 2008.

4.Americans continue to say that religion is losing its influence in Americansociety.Americans continue to perceive that religion is less influential than it usedto be, with 72% in 2016 say that religion is losing its influence on Americanlife.

The perception thatreligion is losing influence in the U.S. has been fairly constant over the pasteight years or so. Before that, the figure fluctuated over time. For example,in 1957 and shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a majority of Americanssaid that religion was increasing its influence on American life. During theReagan administration, the percentages saying that religion was increasing ininfluence and those saying it was decreasing in influence were roughly equal.

Before 2009, therewere only two times in Gallup’s history when more than seven in 10 Americansthought religion was losing its influence: in 1969 and 1970.

5. Religionremains intertwined with political self-identification.Religiosity continued in 2016 to significantly correlate with partisanidentification. Slightly more than half of Republicans this year are”highly religious,” based on a combination of their self-reportedreligious service attendance and the importance of religion in their dailylife. That compares with a third of independents and Democrats who say thesame. By contrast, 20% of Republicans are not religious, compared with 37% ofthe two other political groups.

Political Party Identification Within PartisanGroups in the U.S.: 2016

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

Highly religious

Moderately religious

Not religious

Based on 173,229 interviews conducted Jan. 2-Dec. 19, 2016

GALLUP

Gallup began tracking religiosity on a continual basis in 2008, andalthough overall religiosity is down across all political groups since then, itremains much higher among Republicans than among the other two politicalgroups.

The connection between religion and politics manifested itself in thepresidential election this fall.Exit poll datashowed that among those who reported attendingreligious services weekly, 55% voted for Donald Trump and 41% voted for HillaryClinton. Among those who never attend religious services, 62% voted for Clintonand 30% voted for Trump.

Bottom Line

Gallup data in 2016 show a leveling off in downward trends in churchattendance, the importance of religion and the perception that religion islosing influence in society. This may be a short-term phenomenon or anindication of a more lasting pattern. Demographics in a broad sense couldpredict an uptick in religiosity if the same historical patterns continue tohold. Large numbers of baby boomers and millennials are entering the age rangesin which religiosity has traditionally been higher. But these patterns maychange, and it will take years of data collection to determine if formalreligiosity will continue to decrease or level off.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/200186/five-key-findings-religion.aspx?utm_source=Pew+Research+Center&utm_campaign=e9c8cc598e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2016_12_27&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3e953b9b70-e9c8cc598e-400018169

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