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Mississippi Retains Standing as Most Religious State

Mississippi Retains Standing as Most Religious State

Story Highlights

  • 59% of Mississippi residents are "very religious"
  • Vermont is the least religious state, with 21% very religious
  • Most religious states continue to be mainly in South, plus Utah

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Mississippi remains the most religious state in the U.S., with 59% of its residents in 2016 classified as "very religious," followed by Alabama (56% very religious) and Utah (54%). Vermont is the least religious state; 21% of its residents are classified as very religious. Two other New England states, Maine and Massachusetts, are the second- and third-least religious.

Most Religious States
Based on % Very religious
Very religious
%
Mississippi 59
Alabama 56
Utah 54
South Dakota 53
South Carolina 52
Arkansas 52
Louisiana 50
Tennessee 50
Oklahoma 49
Georgia 47
North Carolina 47
Kentucky 47
Gallup Daily, January-December 2016

Least Religious States
Based on % Very religious
Very religious
%
Vermont 21
Maine 23
Massachusetts 25
Rhode Island 27
Nevada 27
Alaska 27
Oregon 27
Connecticut 28
Hawaii 28
New Hampshire 29
Washington 29
Gallup Daily, January-December 2016

These state-by-state results are based on 174,969 interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking in 2016, including more than 480 interviews in every state and more than 1,000 interviews in most states. Complete results and sample sizes are shown at the end of the article.

Gallup classifies Americans as "very religious," "moderately religious" or "nonreligious" based on their responses to questions about the importance of religion and church attendance. Very religious Americans say religion is important to them and report attending services every week or almost every week. Nonreligious Americans are those for whom religion is not important and who seldom or never attend religious services. Moderately religious Americans meet just one of the criteria, saying either religion is important or that they attend services almost every week or more often.

Gallup began tracking religious indicators daily in 2008. The percentage of all Americans who are very religious has declined slightly over that period of time, from 41% in 2008 to 38% in 2016, while those who are nonreligious has edged up from 30% to 32%. The relative rank ordering of the states, however, has changed little over the past nine years.

Mississippi is the most religious state in the nation for the ninth straight year. In 2008, when Gallup first calculated these state rankings, 59% of Mississippi residents were very religious -- the same as today, although this percentage has fluctuated some over the past nine years. Alabama and Utah have owned the second and third spots in the religiosity rankings in all but one year, 2009, when Alabama was second and Utah tied with South Carolina and Louisiana for third.

Most of the top 10 highly religious states over the past nine years have been in the South, except for Utah, where the highly religious Mormon population helps put it in the top 10 consistently. In 2016, the only other non-Southern state in the top 10 was South Dakota.

20170202_Religiosity_story

The least religious states have typically been concentrated in the upper Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northwest regions. Vermont has been the least religious state for all but one of the last nine years, the exception being 2015 when New Hampshire topped the list.

In 2016, all six New England states were among the 10 least religious states, along with Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Alaska and Nevada. This marked the first time New Hampshire was neither the least nor second-least religious state in the union; the Granite State tied for 10th least religious.

Bottom Line

There is no clear-cut answer as to why state-by-state differences in religiosity persist. Some of it relates to a state's culture, which in turn derives from many years of religious history. A state's religious culture also reflects the type of religion dominant in each state. Utah's majority-Mormon population and Southern states' strongly Protestant population, for example, are more likely to be religious than those in states where these religions are less dominant.

These cultures can be self-sustaining and extend beyond the life of any one resident. Children in highly religious states generally end up being more religious than children who grow up in less religious states. Persons moving to Mississippi may find themselves more likely to attend religious services because so many others are doing so, while persons moving to Vermont may be less inclined to attend because so few of their neighbors do.

Overall religious patterns continue to change in the U.S., with an increase in the percentage of Americans who say that they have no formal religion and a slight overall decrease in general religiosity. To date, however, these patterns have not dramatically affected the relative religiosity of the states when compared with one another, and the evidence from the past nine years suggests that this pattern may persist in the years ahead.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 2-Dec. 30, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 174,969 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Margins of error for individual states are no greater than ±6 percentage points and are ±3 percentage points in most states. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

Religiosity by State, 2016
Sorted by % Very religious
Very religious Moderately religious Nonreligious Sample size
% % %
Mississippi 59 29 12 1,668
Alabama 56 28 16 2,913
Utah 54 16 30 2,013
South Dakota 53 25 22 532
South Carolina 52 29 19 2,755
Arkansas 52 30 18 1,901
Louisiana 50 30 20 2,379
Tennessee 50 31 20 4,148
Oklahoma 49 30 22 2,680
North Carolina 47 30 23 5,726
Georgia 47 31 22 5,200
Kentucky 47 30 24 2,682
Texas 45 32 24 13,319
Missouri 45 29 27 3,406
North Dakota 44 29 26 561
West Virginia 44 32 24 1,031
Nebraska 43 28 28 1,379
Kansas 43 29 29 1,769
Virginia 42 31 28 5,042
Idaho 42 24 35 1,140
New Mexico 41 29 30 1,429
Indiana 41 30 30 3,852
Iowa 40 30 30 2,050
Wyoming 39 29 32 521
Pennsylvania 38 29 33 7,893
Ohio 38 31 31 6,266
Wisconsin 38 27 35 3,389
Minnesota 38 29 33 3,230
Michigan 37 30 33 4,903
Illinois 37 29 34 5,438
Delaware 37 29 35 498
Florida 37 31 32 10,538
Arizona 36 28 37 4,348
Maryland 36 32 33 3,140
New Jersey 34 31 35 4,585
Montana 34 30 36 1,071
Colorado 32 27 41 3,495
California 31 29 40 17,170
New York 31 30 40 10,240
New Hampshire 29 21 50 712
Washington 29 27 45 4,353
Hawaii 28 27 45 567
Connecticut 28 31 41 1,986
Oregon 27 25 48 2,844
Alaska 27 26 47 536
Nevada 27 33 41 1,408
Rhode Island 27 30 43 593
Massachusetts 25 28 48 3,804
Maine 23 27 50 940
Vermont 21 21 58 488
Total 38 30 32 174,969
Gallup Daily, January-December 2016


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/203747/mississippi-retains-standing-religious-state.aspx
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