Church attendance still below pre-pandemic levels despite slight uptick, new data shows

Unsplash/Karl Fredrickson

Religious worship service attendance in the United States is still below pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels despite a slight increase in the last two years, with a slightly steeper decline among Catholics than Protestants, survey data suggests. 

Gallup released updated results of a long-running polling data asking Americans about their religious practices Monday. The poll, conducted May 1-24, is based on the responses of 1,011 adults and has a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.

Overall, Gallup found that 31% of Americans attended religious services at a church, mosque, synagogue or temple in the past week online or in person, an improvement from the 30% who said the same in 2020 and 2022 as well as the 29% measured in 2021.

The 31% weekly attendance rate remains lower than the 34% recorded in 2019, the last full year before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to restrictions on in-person church services and the ascent of virtual church services. 

From 2016 through 2019, Gallup's church attendance rates registered at 34%, dropping to 31% between 2020 and 2023. 

While 44% of Protestants said they attended church services in the last week on average during 2016-2019, that percentage dropped to 40% between 2020-2023, according to the data. The share of Catholics who attended church dropped from 37% in 2016-2019 to 30% from 2020-2023. 

"Sample sizes for those in other religious groups are too small to provide reliable estimates for the period covered in this analysis," Gallup stated in the analysis.

"[I]t is not clear if the pandemic is the cause of the reduced attendance or if the decline is a continuation of trends that were already in motion," the analysis continued, but added, "the temporary closure of churches and ongoing COVID-19 avoidance activities did get many Americans out of the habit of attending religious services weekly." 

The survey also found that the pandemic has impacted how people attend services, with a handful of Americans continuing to prefer online worship even after restrictions on in-person services were lifted.

Data collected at the height of the pandemic in the spring of 2020 shows that the share of Americans who attended in-person worship services reached a record low of 3% in May 2020. At the same time, remote church attendance reached a record high of 28%.

The percentage of Americans attending church services in person consistently increased over the past three years and was measured at 26% in Gallup's May 2023 survey. By contrast, the percentage of Americans who attend virtual worship services has declined, reaching a low of 5% in May 2023. 

Among the Americans who attend church services weekly, Gallup found that 84% do so in person while 16% tune in to virtual services. 

In May, the American Bible Society released a report which found a gradual increase in the number of church attendees who attended church in person instead of virtual, going from 38% in 2021 to 67% in 2023. About one in five churchgoers (21%) say they primarily worship online, down from 45% in 2021. 

Gallup finds that the decrease in church attendance rates extended across political subgroups. From 2016 through 2019, 45% of Republicans said they attended church in the past week, along with 30% of independents and 28% of Democrats.

Between 2020 and 2023, 40% of Republicans said they attended church in the last week. In that four-year time frame, the share of both independents and Democrats who attended church was measured at 25%. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Free Religious Freedom Updates

Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.

Most Popular

Free Religious Freedom Updates

A religious liberty newsletter that is a must-read for people of faith.

More In Church & Ministries