US church membership drops below 50 per cent for first time, poll reveals

Americans’ membership to houses of worship across the country has dropped below 50 per cent for the first time since records began, a new poll has revealed.

A new Gallup poll released on Monday revealed that in 2020, 47 per cent of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50 per cent in 2018 and 70 per cent in 1999.

When the survey was first conducted in 1937 the percentage of those with membership to a place of worship was 73 per cent, marking a 30 per cent difference to 2021.

The data also revealed that church membership decreased in younger generations with 66 per cent of adults born before 1946 belonging to a church compared with 58 per cent of baby boomers, 50 per cent of those in Generation X and 36 per cent of millennials.

The results of the poll come as many Americans celebrate Easter and Passover this week, and reflects an increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference in modern America.

Read more:

Gallup noted that over the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has grown upwards from 8 per cent across 1998 to 2000 to 21 per cent over the past three years.

Other data has often shown a profound shift in the US population in recent decades away from religious institutions and toward general disaffiliation with religion in general.

In 2020, the pollster found that only 48 per cent of Americans said religion was “very important” in their lives, while 25 per cent rated it “fairly important” and 27 per cent “not very important”. In 1952, 75 per cent said it was “very important”.

The coronavirus pandemic caused major disruption to in-person congregation attendance across 2020 with many churches having been forced to close or reduce capacity at least at one point in the year.

However, the Pew Research Center has found that last year the pandemic actually strengthened faith with “more Americans than people in other advanced economies” agreeing likewise.

Nearly three-in-10 Americans surveyed across the summer of 2020 told the researcher that they had stronger personal faith because of the pandemic.

The same share think the religious faith of Americans overall has strengthened, according to the survey of 14 economically developed countries.

“While it is possible that part of the decline seen in 2020 was temporary and related to the coronavirus pandemic, continued decline in future decades seems inevitable, given the much lower levels of religiosity and church membership among younger versus older generations of adults,” Gallup wrote in their recent report.

The management consulting company said the impact of the decline in religion would be seen as thousands of US churches continue to close each year.

Gallup’s most recent poll are based on telephone interviews conducted 2018-2020, with a random sample of 6,117 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus two percentage points at the 95 per cent confidence level.

More Stories
Is test and trace really the most wasteful public spending programme ever?