(Photo: FPC Pascagoula)
Mississippi is America's most religious state while President Barack Obama's home state of Hawaii has taken New York's place among the least religious ones, according to results of a Gallup poll released this week.
With 58 percent of Mississippi residents describing themselves as very religious, the state's average of very religious people is 40 percent higher than America's least religious state, Vermont, where only 19 percent of residents say they are very religious. It is also 18 percent more than the national average of 40 percent of Americans who describe themselves as very religious.
Gallup identifies very religious people as those individuals who say religion is an important part of their daily life and that they attend religious services weekly or almost every week.
The results of the poll are based on data collected from more than 348,000 interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking in 2012. More than 1,000 interviews were conducted in all but two states and the District of Columbia, according to Gallup.
Rounding out the top ten most religious states in 2012 are: Utah, 56 percent; Alabama, 56 percent; Louisiana, 53 percent; Arkansas, 52 percent; South Carolina, 52 percent; Tennessee, 50 percent; North Carolina, 50 percent; Georgia, 48 percent and Oklahoma, 48 percent.
The least religious states by percentage of religious residents in addition to Vermont are: New Hampshire, 23 percent; Maine, 24 percent; Massachusetts, 27 percent; Rhode Island, 29 percent; Oregon, 29 percent; District of Columbia, 30 percent; Nevada, 31 percent; Hawaii, 31 percent; Alaska, 31 percent; Connecticut, 31 percent and Washington, 31 percent.
While 40 percent of Americans identified as being very religious, some 31 percent of Americans described themselves in the poll as non-religious. They said religion was not a part of their daily life and they rarely or never attend religious services. Some 29 percent of Americans identified as moderately religious, however, saying while they don't attend religious services regularly, religion was still important to them. Others among this group said they attend religious services but religion is not important.
These results are relatively unchanged since 2011, says Gallup. "The only change other than minor rank-order differences is the inclusion of Hawaii in the least religious list this year in place of New York," notes Gallup in its report.
What the data reveals, explains Gallup, is that America is still a religious nation with some seven in 10 Americans identifying as very or moderately religious. Southern states and Utah were noted as the most religious parts of America, while those states in New England and the far Northwest were noted as the least religious.
While there are various explanations for the different levels of religiosity across America, Gallup noted that some evidence does suggest that more people have been moving to religious states over the nonreligious ones over the last decade. A complete list of the state rankings by religiosity can be found on Gallup's website.