Gallup Poll: US Church Attendance Dropping

by Alexander Slavsky  •  •  April 9, 2018   

Contrasts with the number of Catholics expected to attend Easter Sunday Mass

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DETROIT ( - A new survey of U.S. Catholics found decreasing rates of church attendance in the past decade.

A Gallup poll published Monday shows that between 2014 and 2017, an average of 39 percent of Catholics reportedly attended Mass weekly. This figure contrasts with 45 percent of Catholics from 2005 to 2008 and 75 percent in 1955 worshipping the past seven days.

The survey has revealed in a past poll from 2009 that between the 1950s and 1970s, the average number of Catholics attending Mass weekly fell 20 percentage points. The rate slowed down to four points per decade through the mid-1990s and balanced out in the mid-2000s. But in the past decade, the percentage has dropped another six points.

The age of practicing Catholics was insignificant in 1955 because nearly three in four Catholics worshipped every week. However, since the 1960s that figure dropped significantly among Catholics between the ages of 21 to 29, decreasing from 73 percent in 1955 to 25 percent from 2014 to 2017.

Church attendance among Catholics older than 30 also decreased from 1955 from 77 to 74 percent to 49 to 31 percent from 2014 to 2017. Pollers say it was a slow yet gradual decline in weekly church attendance among older Catholics, but that figure has declined 10 points or more in the last decade.

The number of Catholics in the United States has remained consistent since 1948, fluctuating between 21 percent and 29 percent. Monday's poll report 22 percent of American adults identify as Catholic as compared to 24 percent in 1955.

There is a large percentage of young adults — 33 percent — between 21 and 29 who not practice or profess any particular religion but rather consider themselves "nones." This is up from only 2 to 3 percent of Americans in the late 1940s and 1950s, and over 10 percent in the 1990s.

There is a large percentage of young adults — 33 percent — between 21 and 29 who not practice or profess any particular religion.

The survey from Monday did not speculate on reasons for the decline in numbers. But the 2009 poll offered thoughts from theologians and observers on the trend: "the cultural upheaval of the 1960s, changes to the church brought about in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council, and national publicity in 2002 over sexual abuse lawsuits against Catholic priests."

The Marist Institute for Public Opinion conducted a poll during Holy Week last month that found nearly three in four Catholics (73 percent) were planning on worshipping on Easter Sunday. That figure climbed to 95 percent among practicing Catholics.

The survey also found that younger Catholics (under the age of 45) were just as likely as older ones (over the age of 45) to attend Easter Sunday Mass (74 to 72 percent).


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