Forty-four percent of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in “the church or organized religion” today, just below the low points Gallup has found in recent years, including 45% in 2002 and 46% in 2007. This follows a long-term decline in Americans’ confidence in religion since the 1970s. …

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. …

Currently, 56% of Protestants express a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the church/organized religion, compared with 46% of Catholics. This is in line with an average 12-percentage-point difference in the two groups’ confidence, according Gallup polling from 2002 through 2012, with Protestants consistently expressing higher confidence. There are too few respondents of other specific religions to analyze separately; however, confidence among all other Americans combined is 29%, far less than either Protestants’ or Catholics’.