AP News reports that the percentage of adults in the U.S. who belong to a church or other religious institutions has plummeted by 20 percent over the past 20 years. A Gallup poll found that the number hit a low of 50% last year. The largest drop was accorded among Democrats and Hispanics.
According to Gallup, church membership was 70% in 1999. Since then, that number has declined steadily. At the same time, adults without a religious affiliation has increased from 8% to 19% in the same time period.
Over the past 20 years, there was a drop in church membership among Catholics from 76% to 63%. Among Protestants, membership dropped from 73% to 67%.
Membership among Hispanic Americans fell from 68% to 45% from 2000 to 2019. More, membership among Democrats plummeted from 71% to 48% while Republicans experienced a more modest drop from 69%.
David Campbell, a University of Notre Dame professor of political science who studies the role of religion in the U.S, says the partisan divide can be attributed to “the allergic reaction many Americans have to the mixture of religion and conservative politics.” He continued, “Increasingly, Americans associate religion with the Republican Party — and if they are not Republicans themselves, they turn away from religion.”
Nancy Ammerman, a sociology of religion professor at Boston University said that the decline in church membership is driven by cultural and generational factors.
“Culturally, we are seeing significant erosion in the trust people have for institutions in general and churches in particular,” she said. “We are also seeing a generational shift as the ‘joiner’ older generation dies off and a generation of non-joiners comes on the scene.”
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