Gallup today released a scathing survey, finding that Americans’ confidence in organized religion is at its lowest point since Gallup began asking the question in 1973. Currently, only 44% of Americans hold “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the church or organized religion,” down from a high of 68% in 1975.
Gallup points to the Church’s sex abuse scandals, which include the great many and infamous child sex abuse and rape scandals that continue to plague the Catholic Church, as a key reason for the continual drop in confidence of organized religion, but notes that “the decline in confidence does not necessarily indicate a decline in Americans’ personal attachment to religion. The percentage of Americans saying religion is very important in their lives has held fairly steady since the mid-1970s, after dropping sharply from 1952 levels.”
In 1973, “the church or organized religion” was the most highly rated institution in Gallup’s confidence in institutions measure, and it continued to rank first in most years through 1985, outranking the military and the U.S. Supreme Court, among others. That began to change in the mid- to late 1980s as confidence in organized religion first fell below 60%, possibly resulting from scandals during that time involving famed televangelist preachers Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. Confidence in religion returned to 60% in 2001, only to be rocked the following year by charges of child molestation by Catholic priests and cover-up by some in the church.
The latest results are from Gallup’s June 7-10 update of its annual “Confidence in Institutions” question. The same poll found Americans’ confidence in public schools, banks, and television news at their all-time lowest, perhaps reflecting a broader souring of Americans’ confidence in societal institutions in 2012. Still, the church/organized religion ranks fourth this year among the 16 institutions tested, on par with the medical system.
Gallup also notes: “Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 7-10, 2012, with a random sample of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.”
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