Tuesday, April 12, 2016

70 Years of Gallup Polls: Americans Still Christian, Still Attend Church As Much As They Did In The 40s and 50s

Here is a good example of how the media is influencing what we think, without us even realizing it. All over the net, ministry-consultant websites quote the common belief that "church attendance is down" and "America is post-Christian".  Yet, study after study shows that Americans overall are still faithful to Jesus Christ, and still believe their religion is most important to their lives.

Gallup results in 2013:
"Americans are no less likely to report having attended church in the past seven days today than they were in 1940 and 1950 -- albeit with many fluctuations since that time, including higher reports in the mid-1950s to the early 1960s. Americans' self-reports of the importance of religion are also no lower than at points in previous decades. "

The Pew Research Center has not been tracking this long enough to be able to make wise comparisons with our fathers' and grandfathers' generations, but the Pew survey in 2014 mirrors Gallup's 2013 & 2014 findings.

Despite this, Pew points at their 2007 results to claim that Americans are "becoming less religious". I think the Gallup research shows that statement to be somewhat an example of interpretive bias: looking at the same numbers and finding a different result. While Pew did have some differences between 2007 and 2014, the Gallup data points over the years show the futility of using two recent years to predict trends reliably.

70% of Pew's 2014 respondents continue to confess Christ as their Savior, while  Gallup found 75% of Americans are Christians in 2014, with 50% being Protestant. Gallup noted here, too,  that this is mostly unchanged over the past 70 years:
"In the 1950s, Gallup surveys showed that up to 71% of Americans identified as Protestant, and small percentages had no religious identity. Then, as now, however, well more than 90% of Americans who express a religious preference identify themselves as Christians."
Pew has an interesting survey that also shows the vast majority of Christians of all denominations are involved with their congregation. While the title proclaims, accurately, that "Church Involvement Varies Widely Among US Christians", the most pronounced variation is between high involvement and medium involvement. Only 12% overall "seldom" attend or are not currently members. Dark blue is "high involvement", light blue is "medium involvement":

 "Those who are members of a congregation, attend religious services at least weekly and attend a prayer or scripture group weekly or monthly are categorized as having a “high” level of congregational involvement, while those who are not members of a congregation and who seldom or never attend religious services and small group prayer or scripture-reading groups are in the “low” category. All other respondents are categorized as having a “medium” level of congregational involvement.
Among U.S. adults who are Christian, three-in-ten have a high level of congregational involvement, while 58% have a medium level and 12% fall into the low category. "

Please always dig into the actual results on any studies like these. Look past the headlines and past the data-point blurbs to see the facts for yourself. You will usually find that the real American world is still alive and well, despite the sensation and insanity reported by the news or pushed by politicians and activists.

Christians are standing firm against the forces that want to deceive us and destroy our faith. Remember this in your own personal battles: you are not alone when you stand up for Jesus. You are surrounded not only by the "great cloud of witnesses" Peter told us about, but also by the faithful men and women and children of America today.

Be of good cheer! When it comes to the Church in America, be heartened: souls are still being won to Christ Jesus, and most of us are still worshiping together on Sundays in the church building. Let us pray for each other and run with patience this marathon that God has set before us!


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