Membership in the American church drops below 50% for the first time, polls say

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Church membership in the United States drops below 50% for the first time in eight decades, polls show

  • Membership in a church, synagogue or mosque in the United States hit a low of 47 percent last year, the Gallup report found.
  • Before 2000, membership in places of worship had usually stayed around 70 percent
  • Gallup has been measuring religious membership since 1937, when it was about 73 percent
  • It has declined steadily over the past ten years

The number of Americans who are members of a place of worship has fallen below 50 percent for the first time in eight decades, a new report shows.

Membership in a church, synagogue, or mosque in the United States hit a low of 47 percent last year, the Gallup report shows.

Before 2000, the membership of places of worship had usually stayed around 70 percent.

Gallup has been measuring religious membership since 1937, when it was about 73 percent.

Membership in a church, synagogue or mosque in the United States hit a low of 47 percent last year, the Gallup report found.  Pictured is the St. Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago earlier this month

Membership in a church, synagogue or mosque in the United States hit a low of 47 percent last year, the Gallup report found. Pictured is the St. Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago earlier this month

Before 2000, the membership of places of worship had usually stayed around 70 percent.  It has declined steadily over the past ten years

Before 2000, membership in places of worship had usually stayed around 70 percent.  It has declined steadily over the past ten years

Before 2000, membership in places of worship had usually stayed around 70 percent. It has declined steadily over the past ten years

It has declined steadily over the past ten years.

The decline is driven by the increasing number of Americans who now say they are not affiliated with any particular religion.

The percentage of Americans who do not identify with a religion has risen to 21 percent in the past three years, compared to 8 percent between 1998 and 2000.

The trend also seems to be related to age: 66 percent of people born before 1946 say they are members of a church or place of worship.

In comparison, 36 percent of millennials said they belong to a place of worship. Fifty-eight percent of Baby Boomers and 50 percent of Gen X belong to a church.

“The US remains a religious country, with more than seven in ten affiliating with some organized religion,” the report says.

Far fewer, now less than half, however, have formal membership in a specific house of worship.

The percentage of Americans who do not identify with a religion has risen to 21 percent in the past three years, compared to 8 percent between 1998 and 2000

The percentage of Americans who do not identify with a religion has risen to 21 percent in the past three years, compared to 8 percent between 1998 and 2000

The percentage of Americans who do not identify with a religion has risen to 21 percent in the past three years, compared to 8 percent between 1998 and 2000

While it is possible that some of the decline in 2020 was temporary and related to the COVID-10 pandemic, a sustained decline over the next few decades seems inevitable given the much lower religiosity and church membership among younger versus older generations of adults. ‘

Each generation has seen a decline in membership among those who are members of a specific religion.

With regard to specific religious groups, Catholics have seen the strongest decline in membership, after a decline of 18 percentage points.

Protestant members fell nine percentage points.

The report noted that there was not enough data to track the decline in membership of other religions.

The decline in membership has been greater among Democrats and those living on the East Coast, according to the report.

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