Americans’ confidence in organized religion is down again this year, continuing the gradual deterioration evident over the past several decades. As my colleague Justin McCarthy pointed out in his recent review of Gallup’s annual update on confidence in institutions, 68% of Americans had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the church or organized religion in 1975. As recently as 1985, organized religion was the most revered institution among the list of institutions Gallup tracks. Confidence fell below the majority level for the first time in 2002, and with some fluctuations along the way, confidence this year has reached a new low of 36%.
Organized religion has lost its exceptionalism, and Americans now view it little differently than they view a number of other institutions in contemporary U.S. society. Confidence in organized religion is in the middle of the pack of the 15 institutions tested this year.
It’s important to note that U.S. culture, norms and patterns of social behavior are always in flux, and religion is part of this inevitable cycle of change in the nation’s sociological fabric as years and decades go by. Americans’ confidence in many (but not all) institutions has been declining in recent years, and organized religion is to some degree being swept along with this trend. Out of the 15 institutions measured this year, for example, only three have confidence ratings above the majority level — the military, small business and the police. Americans’ faith in the most important institution of all — government — is at or near all-time lows.
Additionally, we see continuing distrust in big institutions. Americans have more confidence in small business than any other institution, save the military, and consumer trends associated with restaurants and food and beverages are focused on local (“farm to table”) entities. It’s possible that Americans associate “bigness” with what people perceive as “organized religion” — big Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church.
Why Are Americans Losing Confidence in Organized Religion? https://t.co/isp2xjCxGc
— Dr Jim Pepitone (@drjimpepitone) July 23, 2019