Poll: Near-record high sees religion losing influence in America

When Gallup asks Americans to opine about the influence of religion on American society in general, they most likely take into account a wide variety of social, political, and economic factors in arriving at their responses. Although views that religion was increasing its influence were highest during the Republican administrations of Eisenhower, Reagan, and George W. Bush, this political connection does not appear to be the primary explanatory factor. Views on the increasing influence of religion were quite low during the Republican administrations of Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush.

Gallup’s trends reflecting more personal views of religion do not show the same patterns of fluctuation as the broader questions about American society. What trends there are provide a somewhat mixed message. While almost all measures show that Americans were more religious in the 1940s and 1950s than in recent decades, Americans appear to be as personally religious now as they were in the late 1970s and 1980s. Church and synagogue membership, on the other hand, has drifted downward in a more steady fashion. The current 61% of Americans who report being a church or synagogue member is as low as has been measured by Gallup since the 1930s.