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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Religion in Decline

As many Americans prepare to celebrate Christmas, 72% say religion is important in their lives, including 51% who say it is very important. Christians' attachment to religion is even higher, as 62% find it very important.

Although these findings, from a Dec. 3-12 Gallup poll, show that religion is still very important to a slim majority, they provide further evidence of the long-term decline in the importance of religion in Americans' lives. This decline has also been seen in Gallup's data on waning church attendance and self-identification with a particular religion.

When Gallup first asked Americans to rate the importance of religion in their lives in 1952, 75% said it was very important and 20% fairly important. Those percentages were roughly the same when the question was next asked, in 1965, but by 1978, they had dropped to 52% very important and 32% fairly important. Since then, the percentage identifying religion as very important has fluctuated, rising above 61% in only two single readings: 64% in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and 65% one year later. The historical low single reading of 49% was recorded in May 2015.

As Americans' views of the importance of religion in their lives and its influence on American life have edged downward, so too has their belief that it can answer today's problems. For the first time in more than six decades, less than half of Americans, 46%, say "religion can answer all or most of today's problems." The public is now more closely divided than ever before in its views of religion as the answer to what ails society.