Poll: Religious attendance is shrinking but those who remain are happy

by | May 16, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — For American religion, the story of decline just won’t let up.A shrinking number of Americans — 16% — say religion is the most important thing in their lives, down from 20% in 2013. And nearly 3 in 10 — or 29% — say religion is not important to them at all, up from 19% 10 years ago. Those are among the findings in a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute on religion and congregations fielded in 2022 and published Tuesday (May 16).
The survey of 5,872 American adults finds that 57% seldom or never attend religious services (compared with 45% in 2019). And some of those who do are restless. The survey finds that 24% of Americans said they now belong to a religious congregation other than the one they grew up in; that’s up from 16% in 2021.
But among those who remain churchgoers, there’s a happier story, too.
Most churchgoers across Christian traditions — 59% — have attended their current church for more than 10 years, revealing remarkable stability.
“Religious Attendance 2013-2022, by Religious Affiliation” Graphic courtesy PRRI
An overwhelming number of regular attenders — 82% — say they are optimistic about the future of their congregation. And a whopping 89% say they are proud to be associated with their church.
“What struck me about the findings is the paradox,” said Melissa Deckman, CEO of PRRI. “We see continued declines in the role of religion. But for those who attend regularly they seem pretty happy and satisfied, even proud of their congregations.”

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Americans who attend church at least a few times a year are slightly more likely than those who seldom or never attend church to be civically or politically active. The survey shows they are more likely to have contacted a government official (23% vs. 19%), served on a committee (17% vs. 10%), or volunteered for a political campaign (7% vs. 4%).
Higher levels of civic engagement are particularly strong …

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