Religion and Social Trends

Tracking Religious Affiliation, State by State

Public opinion polling has long shown the United States to be a very religious country. Roughly 6 in 10 Americans say religion is "very important" in their own lives, and another 26% say it is fairly important. But religious commitment and religious affiliation vary considerably across the U.S. states. For example, Gallup data show that Americans living in the West are generally less likely than people in other parts of the country to say religion is important in their lives.

A state-by-state analysis of religious affiliation confirms this tendency in western states, showing that Oregonians, Idahoans, and Washingtonians have especially high proportions of non-religious residents. The data also show Rhode Island has the highest proportion of Catholics of any state in the nation, and Utah has the greatest percentage of Mormons. Alabama, West Virginia, and Mississippi have the highest proportion of Protestants, and New York and New Jersey have the highest proportion of Jews.

This analysis includes Gallup data collected on religious preference from 2000 to 2004, a total of 62,744 interviews*. There are at least 200 interviews in every state except North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Delaware. In 22 of the states, there are at least 1,000 interviews, allowing for a high degree of confidence in the estimates. 

Religion by State

The United States is an overwhelmingly Christian nation. According to Gallup's yearly estimate on national religious preferences, more than 8 in 10 Americans say they are affiliated with a Christian religion. Some individual states exceed that level, and no state falls below 76% in attachment to Christianity. The aggregate data indicate that more than 9 in 10 residents of Mississippi, North Dakota, and Louisiana identify their beliefs as Christian. Only 8 of the 48 continental states have less than 80% of their residents identifying as Christian -- Massachusetts (79%), Washington (79%), New York (79%), Nevada (79%), Idaho (79%), Colorado (78%), California (76%), and Oregon (76%). 

Gallup data show that roughly half of all Americans identify as Protestants. The states with the greatest number of Protestants are generally found in the southern part of the country. In Alabama, West Virginia, and Mississippi, three in four residents are Protestant. (Note that these data do not include the growing proportion of Americans who say they are Christian but do not give any religious affiliation beyond that; a significant proportion of these Americans are probably Protestant in their beliefs.) Because of the extraordinarily high prevalence of Mormons in Utah, only about one in eight residents of that state are Protestant. 

U.S. States With Most Protestants

State

% Protestant

 

 

Alabama

76

West Virginia

75

Mississippi

75

Tennessee

72

South Carolina

71

Arkansas

70

North Carolina

70

Georgia

68

Oklahoma

67

Kentucky

65

About one in four Americans are Catholic, which makes it the largest single religious denomination in the United States. The Gallup data reveal that northeastern states have the greatest proportion of Catholic residents. More than half of Rhode Island residents (52%) are Catholic, as are nearly half of those living in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The states that are the most Protestant tend to be the least Catholic.

U.S. States With Most Catholics

State

% Catholic

 

 

Rhode Island

52

Massachusetts

48

New Jersey

46

Connecticut

46

New York

40

New Hampshire

38

Wisconsin

34

Louisiana

33

New Mexico

32

Vermont

32

Roughly 2% of Americans are Mormon, and they reside overwhelmingly in the West. Two in three Utah residents are Mormon; Mormons settled Utah in the mid-19th century and the headquarters of the church is in Salt Lake City. The data suggest that one of every three Mormons in the United States lives in Utah. Idaho also has a rather large proportion of Mormons, as more than one in five Idahoans affiliate with that religion.

U.S. States With Most Mormons

State

% Mormon

 

 

Utah

67

Idaho

21

Wyoming

9

Nevada

9

Arizona

5

Montana

4

Washington

4

New Mexico

3

Oregon

3

About 2% of the U.S. population is Jewish. Several northeastern states -- including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, have Jewish populations above the national average. Though based on a small sample size, the data suggest that the District of Columbia has a higher proportion of Jewish residents than any U.S. state (about 10%). 

U.S. States With Most Jews

State

% Jewish

 

 

New York

7

New Jersey

6

Massachusetts

4

Florida

4

Maryland

4

Connecticut

3

Vermont

3

California

3

Nevada

3

Gallup's long-term national trend on religious affiliation shows a growing proportion of Americans are saying they do not have a religious preference at all. In the last two national yearly averages, 1 in 10 Americans said they did not affiliate with any religion, or said they were atheist or agnostic. The greatest proportions of non-religious Americans are found in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington -- all western states. 

U.S. States With Most Non-Religious

State

% Non-Religious

 

 

Oregon

18

Idaho

17

Washington

16

Colorado

15

Maine

14

California

14

New Hampshire

13

Nevada

13

Arizona

12

The states with the lowest proportions of non-religious residents are Mississippi (4%), Louisiana (5%), North Dakota (5%), Tennessee (5%), Alabama (6%), South Carolina (6%), Oklahoma (6%), West Virginia (6%), and Texas (6%).

The following table presents the full religious profile of each of the 48 continental states (Gallup does not ordinarily interview in Hawaii and Alaska):

Religious Affiliation by State

State Sample
Size
Protestant Other
Christian
Catholic Mormon Jewish None
Maine 499 46.9 2.1 30.5 0.5 1.2 14.4
New Hampshire 395 37.0 3.8 38.2 0.2 2.4 12.9
Vermont 224 45.8 6.2 31.5 0.3 2.9 8.6
Massachusetts 1,714 26.9 2.7 48.0 0.1 4.2 10.8
Rhode Island 266 31.6 4.2 51.5 0.0 2.1 6.7
Connecticut 861 31.0 3.7 45.7 0.3 2.9 10.3
New York 4,193 33.1 4.6 39.5 0.2 6.7 9.2
New Jersey 1,930 30.0 4.6 45.9 0.3 5.6 7.3
Pennsylvania 3,716 50.5 4.4 30.1 0.3 1.9 7.8
Maryland 1,032 49.3 6.2 25.4 1.1 3.9 8.5
Delaware 145 51.5 4.0 28.8 0.6 1.8 10.4
West Virginia 483 75.4 5.6 7.0 0.4 0.2 6.4
District of Columbia 121 34.2 8.9 19.6 0.0 10.9 14.4
Ohio 2,611 52.5 7.0 24.8 0.4 0.7 9.7
Michigan 2,056 52.3 6.4 24.4 0.4 0.7 11.0
Indiana 1,431 59.3 6.3 18.2 0.8 0.7 9.9
Illinois 2,186 48.3 5.4 31.4 0.3 2.2 7.4
Wisconsin 1,485 45.6 4.6 34.4 0.7 0.5 9.2
Minnesota 1,274 52.6 5.6 28.7 0.4 1.2 7.0
Iowa 790 63.5 5.4 19.5 0.7 0.1 7.9
Missouri 1,432 59.1 7.7 18.9 0.9 0.7 8.4
North Dakota 171 57.2 5.2 28.0 1.2 0.0 5.0
South Dakota 172 58.8 6.3 23.9 0.0 0.0 6.7
Nebraska 468 58.0 3.1 24.7 2.0 0.7 8.1
Kansas 724 61.9 6.1 20.4 0.5 0.7 6.5
Virginia 1,588 61.3 5.6 18.1 0.8 1.2 7.5
North Carolina 1,810 69.9 8.4 8.5 0.6 0.4 7.3
South Carolina 846 70.9 8.7 8.4 0.6 0.7 6.1
Georgia 1,562 68.3 7.2 10.8 0.4 1.2 7.3
Florida 3,188 49.7 6.8 24.5 0.6 4.1 9.0
Kentucky 935 65.4 7.3 14.6 0.8 0.3 7.9
Tennessee 1,157 72.1 9.1 7.7 0.4 0.8 5.2
Alabama 925 75.8 6.2 6.6 0.5 0.6 5.6
Mississippi 537 74.9 10.4 6.4 0.9 0.4 3.5
Arkansas 641 70.1 9.2 7.4 1.2 0.2 7.9
Louisiana 853 51.9 6.2 32.9 0.1 0.4 4.5
Oklahoma 792 67.4 8.9 11.3 1.5 0.1 5.7
Texas 3,789 59.7 7.3 20.5 0.9 0.7 6.4
Montana 326 52.9 4.1 23.6 4.3 0.0 11.2
Arizona 1,066 43.1 7.5 25.2 5.4 1.5 11.5
Colorado 1,135 47.2 5.9 22.2 1.7 1.7 14.8
Idaho 375 34.0 8.1 14.4 20.6 0.0 16.9
Wyoming 161 56.3 5.5 15.8 9.4 0.0 9.2
Utah 541 12.3 3.6 7.2 66.5 0.1 7.2
Nevada 465 34.7 7.2 26.4 9.1 2.5 12.7
New Mexico 455 46.1 5.0 31.6 2.8 0.9 9.2
California 6,710 39.3 7.3 27.0 1.8 2.7 14.4
Oregon 932 49.4 8.0 15.9 2.6 0.5 17.9
Washington 1,576 48.6 8.2 17.6 3.7 0.7 15.6


*These results are based on telephone interviews with 62,744 randomly selected national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in Gallup Polls between 2000 and 2004. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±1 percentage point.  Margins of sampling error for individual states range from ±10 percentage points in the District of Columbia to ±1 percentage point in California. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

 

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