Church membership in the US declines by 20% as 'Americans associate religion with Republican Party'
A new Gallup poll states that the US adults are becoming reluctant to join a church or other religious institutions in the country and one of the reasons is likely political.
Church membership in the United States has witnessed a decline by 20 percent over the last two decades, marking a low of 50 percent in 2018. A new Gallup poll states that the US adults are becoming reluctant to join a church or other religious institutions in the country and one of the reasons is likely political.
"Increasingly, Americans associate religion with the Republican Party — and if they are not Republicans themselves, they turn away from religion," a University of Notre Dame political science professor who studies religion's role in US civic life, David Campbell said, according to the Associated Press.
The findings of the poll were based on surveys conducted over the last 20 years. Gallup included at least 2,000 US adults and have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Some of the findings of the survey are based on multiple interviews conducted from 1998-2000 and 2016-2018, with each period including exchanges with over 7,000 adults.
According to the poll, among major demographic groups, the biggest drops were recorded in Democrats and Hispanics. Church membership, which stood at 70 percent in 1999, has steadily decreased, while the percentage of US adults with no religious affiliation has grown from 8 percent to 19 percent.
A significant drop in membership was also noted among Catholics — dropping from 76 percent to 63 percent. A big part for this decline has been attributed to the disturbing clergy sex-abuse scandals which have emerged over the years. The poll also stated that membership drop among Protestants was also noted over the same period, declining from 73 percent to 67 percent.
A huge decline was seen in Hispanic Americans, noting a fall from 68 percent to 45 percent in 2000. The fall was significant when compared to the non-Hispanic white and black Americans.
Although church membership among Democrats fell from 71 percent to 48 percent, there was a noted decline in the membership among Republicans too, albeit modest, from 77 percent to 69 percent. Campbell attributed the partisan divide to "the allergic reaction many Americans have to the mixture of religion and conservative politics."
A professor of sociology, religion and divinity at Duke University, Mark Chaves, also told AP that as recently as the 1970s, it was difficult to predict someone's political orientation by the regularity with which they attended church, however, it is now one of the "best predictors."
"The correlation between religiosity and being Republican has increased over the years," Chaves said.
The poll also found out that the percentage of US adults with no religious affiliation has more than doubled, from 8 percent to 19 percent.
"Although some of those who do not identify with a religion nevertheless indicate that they belong to a church, the vast majority of nonreligious Americans do not. In 1998 through 2000, one in 10 Americans with no religious preference said they belonged to a church, as did an average of 7 percent in the past three years," the poll stated. "The decline in church membership mostly reflects the fact that fewer Americans than in the past now have any religious affiliation. However, even those who do identify with a particular religion are less likely to belong to a church or other place of worship than in the past."