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Church attendance inches up, Gallup says
Alfredo Garcia, Religion News Service
July 06, 2010
2 MIN READ TIME

Church attendance inches up, Gallup says

Church attendance inches up, Gallup says
Alfredo Garcia, Religion News Service
July 06, 2010

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.”

That’s up

from 42.8 percent in 2009 and 42.1 percent in 2008.

Researchers previously

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.

“However,

trends … reflect just the opposite pattern, with both church attendance and

economic confidence increasing from 2008 to 2009, and now into 2010.”

Conservatives, non-Hispanic

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.