Religion

Church Attendance Lowest in New England, Highest in South

New Hampshire and Vermont have lowest reported church attendance in nation

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Forty-two percent of Americans say they attend church or synagogue once a week or almost every week, while 43% say that they seldom or never attend church. These self-reported worship service rates vary significantly from state to state. A special Gallup Poll analysis of more than 68,000 interviews conducted over the past two years shows that reported church attendance is highest in the Southern states, in Utah, and in certain Midwestern states, while church attendance is lowest in the New England states, Nevada, and other Western states.

This analysis is based on responses to this question, "How often do you attend church or synagogue -- at least once a week, almost every week, about once a month, seldom, or never?"

The analysis is based on an aggregated dataset of 68,031 interviews, conducted by Gallup between January 2004 and March 2006.

The overall response patterns for the general American population are as follows:

How often do you attend church or synagogue?

Frequency

Percentage

%

Once a week

21,333

31

Almost every week

7,239

11

Once a month

9,069

13

Seldom

18,273

27

Never

11,103

16

Don't know

152

*

Refused

862

1

Total

68,031

* Less than 0.5%

The basic structure of self-reported church attendance suggests a relatively evenly divided population. A little more than 4 in 10 Americans report being regular church attenders -- those who go to services every week or almost every week. About the same percentage of Americans report being infrequent church attenders -- those who seldom or never go to church. Thirteen percent attend once a month, while about 2% don't know or refuse to answer.

Previous Gallup analysis confirms that reported church attendance varies widely by subgroup. Women are more likely to attend than men, older Americans are more likely to attend than younger Americans, blacks are more likely to attend than whites, and members of specific religious groups and denominations are more likely to attend than members of other groups.

The large sample size available in this analysis allows Gallup to look at variation in reported church attendance across another variable of interest: geographic location.

The table below displays the reported church attendance within each of the 48 contiguous states of the Union (Alaska and Hawaii are not routinely included in national polls due to time zone differences). The sample sizes in some smaller states such as the District of Columbia, Wyoming, and North Dakota are small, but in no instance do sample sizes for any individual state drop below 150, providing reasonably stable estimates even for these smaller states.

It is clear that there is wide variation in reported church attendance across these 48 states. The range is 34 percentage points, from a high of 58% attendance in Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina to a low of 24% in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Certain broad geographic patterns are clear:

  • Church attendance is much higher in the South than in any other specific region. Of the traditionally Southern states, Virginia has the lowest reported church attendance rate (44%), which is still above the national average (42%).
  • Church attendance is high in Utah (55%). Previous Gallup research has shown that Mormons have a very high "yield" of church attendance among their members, and Utah is the most heavily Mormon state in the Union.
  • Church attendance is high in certain Midwestern states, including in particular Nebraska (53%).
  • At the other end of the spectrum, the data make it clear that reported church attendance is lowest in the New England states -- New Hampshire (24%), Vermont (24%), Rhode Island (28%), Massachusetts (31%), and Maine (31%). The only slight exception is the New England state of Connecticut (37%), where church attendance is somewhat closer to the average.
  • Church attendance is also lower in Nevada (27%) and other Western states, including Washington (32%), California (32%), and Oregon (32%).
  • The five most populous states in the Union are California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois. Church attendance is below average in California, New York, and Florida, above average in Texas, and right at average in Illinois.

Another way of looking at these data is to subtract the percent who say they seldom or never attend church from the percent who attend weekly or almost every week. That figure can be called "net church attendance".

Based on this variable, there are four states with a net church attendance of 30 percentage points or more -- Louisiana (+33), Mississippi (+33), Alabama (+31), and South Carolina (+30).

There are three states that have a net church attendance of -30 or less -- Vermont (-38), New Hampshire (-37), and Nevada (-33).

Survey Methods

These results are based on 68,031 telephone interviews with randomly selected national samples of Americans, aged 18 and older, conducted from January 2004 through March 2006. For results based on this large aggregated sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±1 percentage point. The maximum sampling error for individual states varies depending on the number of interviews conducted in each state. 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.

How Often Do You Attend Church or Synagogue?
Aggregate from Gallup Poll interviews
January 2004-March 2006

Once a week

Almost every week

Once week or almost every week

Number of Interviews

%

%

%

Alabama

45

13

58

1,120

Louisiana

44

14

58

1,015

South Carolina

44

14

58

1,005

Mississippi

45

12

57

620

Utah

44

11

55

673

Arkansas

43

11

55

783

Nebraska

39

15

53

436

North Carolina

39

14

53

2,191

Tennessee

40

12

52

1,502

Georgia

39

13

52

1,920

Oklahoma

38

12

50

960

Texas

37

13

49

4,119

Kentucky

39

10

48

1,252

Kansas

35

12

47

714

West Virginia

35

11

46

620

Indiana

35

11

46

1,571

Missouri

34

11

46

1,569

Iowa

31

14

46

886

South Dakota

31

14

45

206

Virginia

32

13

44

1,817

Minnesota

30

14

44

1,379

Delaware

33

11

43

180

Wisconsin

29

14

43

1,358

Idaho

33

11

43

486

Pennsylvania

33

10

43

3,984

North Dakota

32

11

43

165

Ohio

33

9

43

2,955

Illinois

31

11

42

2,317

Michigan

30

12

42

2,186

NATIONAL AVERAGE

31

11

42

68,031

Maryland

28

13

41

1,274

New Mexico

33

8

41

512

Florida

30

9

39

3,514

Connecticut

27

10

37

865

Wyoming

25

11

36

190

Arizona

27

9

35

1,303

Colorado

25

10

35

1,335

New Jersey

26

9

34

1,688

Montana

23

11

34

387

District of Columbia

25

9

33

117

New York

25

8

33

3,871

Oregon

23

9

32

1,116

California

23

8

32

6,601

Washington

23

9

32

1,783

Maine

25

7

31

477

Massachusetts

24

7

31

1,586

Rhode Island

20

8

28

274

Nevada

20

7

27

525

Vermont

16

8

24

226

New Hampshire

17

7

24

399

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/22579/church-attendance-lowest-new-england-highest-south.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030