Poll: Mississippians Most Likely to Attend Church Frequently

Mississippians were more likely to attend a religious service on a weekly or almost weekly basis than the people of any other state, according to the second annual Gallup poll on religious service attendance.

The people of Mississippi were also found in 2008 to be the most frequent servicegoers, but this year were even more likely to attend service weekly with 63 percent saying they "attend church, synagogue, or mosque" at least once a week or almost every week. Last year, 60 percent said the same.

"Church attendance levels are widely dispersed across the states, with the highest levels generally occurring in the South and the Midwest, and the lowest in the Northeast and the West," the Gallup organization noted Wednesday in announcing the latest figures, which were based on more than 350,000 interviews conducted among national adults, aged 18 and older, across all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2009.

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Overall, religious service attendance in 2009 increased, with 41.6 percent saying that they attended frequently compared to the 40.9 percent in 2008. The states that witnessed the highest percentage gains were Louisiana, with a five percent increase; North Dakota, with a four percent increase; and Alaska, Montana, and Mississippi, each with a three percent increase.

Those states with the biggest percentage decreases were South Dakota, Wyoming, and Rhode Island – all with three-point drops.

The state with the lowest percentage of people who reported attending religious services frequently last year was Vermont, where only 23 percent said they attended "at least once a week" or "almost every week."

In its analysis of the data, Gallup noted the effects of religious affiliation on reported church attendance.

Southern states, for example, where frequent service attendance was most common, have high proportions of residents who identify as Protestant, non-Catholic Christians – faith traditions with high average church attendance levels.

The people in Utah, which also saw a high percentage of frequent service attendance, meanwhile, are predominantly Mormon – a group with the highest average religious service attendance level of any major religious group in the country.

Residents of New England, the Northwest, and other Western states are more likely to have no religious identity – which, not surprisingly, is usually associated with low church attendance.

Gallup also considered the effects of ethnic, racial, and cultural differences across the state.

Top 10 States, Church Attendance:
State (% Attend weekly or almost every week)
Mississippi (63%)
Alabama (58%)
South Carolina (56%)
Louisiana (56%)
Utah (56%)
Tennessee (54%)
Arkansas (53%)
North Carolina (53%)
Georgia (51%)
Texas (50%)

Bottom 10 States, Church Attendance
State (% Attend weekly or almost every week)
Vermont (23%)
New Hampshire (26%)
Maine (27%)
Massachusetts (29%)
Nevada (30%)
Hawaii (31%)
Oregon (31%)
Alaska (31%)
Washington (32%)
Rhode Island (32%)
Connecticut (32%)

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