Religion in America

Poll Finds Americans Don’t Attend Church As Much As They Claim

A new poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute called “I Know What You Did Last Sunday” found Americans significantly overstate their church attendance to pollsters according to The Washington Post.

Most polling is down by phone interviews. When people were asked if they “seldom or never” go to worship services, 30 percent described themselvels that way.

When PRRI asked the exact same question online, 43 percent of respondents described themselves that way. The effect continues with the unaffiliated. In the interviews, 73 percent say the seldom or never went to religious services, but online that number is 91 percent.

In the last several years, many polls have found more Americans who do not identify with a religious tradition, and many denominations are in decline.

The poll found that 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God or a greater spirit, and 39 percent say they attend a weekly worship service.

A study by the Huffington Post last year found similar numbers on the unaffiliated. That study concluded that 20 percent of Americans do not belong to a particular religion. Of that group, 10 percent said they were atheist or agnostic.

“This points to a paradox in the country: On the one hand we have the rise of the unaffiliated, but at the same time the social expectation of church attendance is still alive and well, and we can see it as people inflate their reports of church attendance in live interviews,” said Robert Jones, the institute’s chief executive. “We have a long history of religious attendance being connected with all kinds of upright moral behavior, and we still see the vestiges of that.”

“Even with the inflation, America still stands out as a very religious country, particularly compared to Western Europe,” Jones said. “If anything, it points to how strong this social norm is.”

As reported this week in the inquisitr, Americans also want their politicians to be religious.

That poll found 35 percent would be less likely to support a presidential candidate who had an extramarital affair, while 53 percent indicated that not believing in God-the trait viewed most negatively of the 16 categories polled.

Catholics were the most likely to overstate how often they go to church. Only 15 percent said they seldom or never attend church, but online 30 percent admitted they rarely or never go to church.

“This is consistent with what we see in the rise of nonaffiliation,” co-author Dan Cox said. “It’s about more than a rejection of institutions.

[Image via visitchurches.org]

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