Poll Reveals American Church Membership Is At An All-Time Low
According to a recent poll from Gallup, it turns out that memberships have been on the decline since last year, and dropped below 50% for the first time in the company’s eight decades of taking the poll.
In 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic when everything basically shut down. 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque. That’s down from 50% in 2018 and a whopping 70% in 1999.
For context, U.S. church membership was at 73% when Gallup first measured it in 1937 and stayed near that percentage over the course of the next 60 years. The turn of the 21st century was when things began to decline for church memberships, and now it’s at an all-time low.
So what’s the reason for the drop? “The decline in church membership is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference,” Gallup explains. Over the last two decades, there have been more and more Americans who aren’t identifying with any one religion—a number that has increased from 8% in 1998-2000 to 13% in 2008-2010 and 21% over the past three years.
The thing is, even people who do have a religious preference are contributing to the decline in formal church membership. In the years between 1998 and 2000, an average of 73% of religious Americans belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque. But in the past three years, the average has decreased to just 60%.
Gallup also dives into the age and generational differences that could be attributed to the decline. “66% of traditionalists — U.S. adults born before 1946 — belong to a church, compared with 58% of baby boomers, 50% of those in Generation X and 36% of millennials,” the company explains. Now, it seems the millennials and Generation Z-ers are less likely to join church than their older Baby Boomer counterparts.
Gallup shares that 31% of millennials have no religious affiliation, up from 22% just one decade ago. Additionally, 33% of the Generation Z crew that are considered adults do not have any religious preference.
To read more on the interesting study, check out the Gallup analysis here.
Are you an avid church goer? What do you think of the decline in church membership? What do you believe could be factoring into this?