Americans Highly Religious, Likely to Become Even More Religious, Pollster Predicts

Protestants Shrinking, 'Unbranded' Christianity Growing

Seven in 10 Americans are very or moderately religious. Looking at demographic trends, Frank Newport, editor in chief for Gallup, predicts that Americans will become even more religious, on average, in the future.

In surveys conducted this year by Gallup, 40 percent of Americans can be categorized as "very religious," while 29 percent are "moderately religious" and 31 percent are nonreligious. Religiosity is measured by frequency of attendance at worship services and the importance of religion in the respondents' daily life. The sample of 326,721 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus one percentage point.

Among Newport's other findings, Americans become more religious as they age, women are more religious than men, the South is the most religious region, those with high levels of income and education are the least religious, and Republicans are more religious than Democrats, with one notable exception -- blacks are the most religious and the most Democratic of any race or ethnic group.

Newport expects Americans' level of religiosity to increase over the next 20 years because the number of Americans 65 and older will double over the next 20 years. Since, historically, most people become more religious as they reach that age, the average level of religiosity for the entire population should increase if the trend continues.

Newport notes, though, that this trend could also be counterbalanced by the currently low fertility rate. Since religiosity usually correlates with having children, average religiosity could decline if fewer people are choosing to raise kids.

Another trend that could impact religiosity in the United States is that Americans have been migrating from less religious states to more religious states over the previous decade.

Newport discusses these trends in more detail in a new book, God Is Alive and Well: The Future of Religion in America, published Tuesday.

Also discussed in the book is the decline of Protestant Christianity and the increase in "unbranded" Christianity. While traditional Protestant denominations have been losing members, nondenominational churches or congregations with only loose or unadvertised affiliations with denominations have been growing.

The number of Catholics has remained steady, mostly due to the rising number of young Catholic Latino immigrants which have offset declines elsewhere.

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