WASHINGTON — A new Gallup
Poll found that Americans’ self-reported church attendance has increased
slightly since 2008.
When asked “How often do you
attend church, synagogue, or mosque?” 43.1 percent of Americans in 2010 said
they attended church “at least once a week” or “almost every week.”
from 42.8 percent in 2009 and 42.1 percent in 2008.
believed that church attendance rises when economic times are bad. The Gallup
data, however, indicates that the opposite may be happening.
“There has been
well-publicized speculation about the possibility that church attendance has
risen over the past two years as Americans became more despondent and worried
as a result of the economic recession,” Frank Newport of Gallup writes.
trends … reflect just the opposite pattern, with both church attendance and
economic confidence increasing from 2008 to 2009, and now into 2010.”
blacks and Republicans demonstrated the highest participation, with 55 percent
of each group reporting frequent church attendance. Liberals and young adults
(18 to 29) rounded out the bottom, with 27 and 35 percent respectively.
In its report, Gallup says “the
small increase in attendance between 2008 and so far in 2010 is statistically
significant, suggesting that there has in fact been an uptick in religious
service participation in the real world over the last 2 1/2 years.”
Others are more skeptical.
“Frankly, I wouldn’t put
much store in a 1 percent increase in the attendance rates,” said Nancy
Ammerman, a sociologist of religion at Boston University. “It’s just too small
to make a very big story of. That number, the 42-44 percent range, has been so stable
for so long that that in itself is a story.”
Ammerman added that these
figures are not demonstrative of actual American religious participation.
“If you go into any church
on any given weekend, you will find less than 43 percent in the pews,” she said,
citing a more realistic figure of 20-25 percent. “But that in and of itself is
quite striking, that a quarter of the population of any given country will be
found in a religious service on any given week.”
The poll is based on more
than 800,000 interviews since February 2008, and has a margin of error of plus
or minus 1 percentage point.