Confidence in organized religion topped confidence in all other institutions from 1973 to 1985, and, even after falling amid televangelist scandals in the 1980s, it registered at the majority level consistently until 2001. After the Boston Globe’s 2002 expose revealed Catholic church leaders were aware of and did not take strong action to stop serial sex abuse by priests, confidence in organized religion dropped sharply to 45%. It recovered slightly in the years after the scandal broke, hovering around the 50% mark. Between 2010 and 2017, it regularly registered in the 40s. Since then, in 2018 and 2019, Americans’ confidence in religion has been below the 40% mark.
Gallup previously reported a drop in confidence among U.S. Catholics — as well as declining church attendance and views of the ethical standards of clergy — amid ongoing fallout from Roman Catholic priest sex abuse scandals. Currently, 36% of Catholics report having confidence in the church or organized religion, compared with 48% of Protestants. Just 8% of U.S. adults with no religious affiliation report having confidence in organized religion.