Confidence in organized religion has been in a downward spiral since at least the 1970s. It’s still more popular than Congress, but that’s not saying much.
According to a recent Gallup poll, confidence in organized religion reached an all-time low of 42 percent this year. The decline became noticeably steep in the ’80s, with the biggest drop off in the early 2000s, when news of the Catholic Church’s widespread child rape and cover up broke, according to Gallup. A dramatic 15 percentage point drop – from 60 to 45 – can be seen on Gallup’s graph around the years 2001 and 2002.
“The church and organized religion is losing its footing as a pillar of moral leadership in the nation’s culture,” according to Gallup. It once was one of the most reliable points of public confidence, but now has fallen below the military, small business and the police. Congress, the media and the medical industry are among the institutions with lower rankings.
Catholic confidence stabilized above 50 percent for the last two years, coinciding with the election of massively popular Pope Francis, who has taken steps to hold accountable church leaders involved in sexual abuse.
“In the ’80s the church and organized religion were the No. 1,” Lydia Saad, author of the report, told Religion News Service. While almost all institutions lost public confidence, “the picture for religion is particularly bleak.”
Meanwhile a growing number of Americans – 23 percent – say they do not identify with any religion, according to Religion News Service.
The poll was conducted between June 2 and June 7 on a random sampling of 1,527 adults, with a 3-percentage-point margin of error.
Congress came in dead last.