Gallup’s 2012 results are in for America’s most — and least — religious states. Overall, 40 percent of the nation was found to be “very religious” last year (no change from the 2011 results). To qualify for this designation, an individual must affirm that religion is important to his or her daily life and that church is attended either weekly or almost every week.
In addition to the proportion of highly religious Americans, an additional 29 percent claim that they are “moderately religious,” meaning that faith is important to them, but they don’t attend religious services regularly (or that faith is not very important to them, but they still attend church regularly). This is on pace with last year’s proportion (28 percent). And finally, 31 percent do not attend church regularly and report that faith is not a big part of their lives (this was 32 percent in 2011).
Despite claims of monumental growth, Deseret News notes that the data don’t corroborate the notion that the so-called “nones” (those with no religious affiliation) are exploring in number. If there was expansion among this cohort, one would expect to see growth among the non-religious when comparing 2011 to 2012, however this isn’t the case.
But what about the individual states? America is a theologically-diverse country. While the vast majority of the nation is very or moderately religious, the populations within specific geographic areas — and states — differ greatly in their fervency. While Mississippi is the most religious (58 percent of residents are “very religious”), Vermont is the least (only 19 percent are “very religious”).
First, let’s take a look at the top 10 most religious states:
In contrast, here are the 12 least religious states:
Interestingly, these lists form fascinating geographic patterns. Gallup explains:
Eight of the top 10 religious states are in the South — basically comprising the entire Southern belt from Georgia and the two Carolinas on the Atlantic coast through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, to Louisiana and Arkansas in the west. The states outside the Southern belt are Utah — with its strongly religious majority Mormon population — and Oklahoma, which straddles the border between the South and the Midwest.
The 12 least religious states comprise the entirety of New England — Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut — along with the three most Northwestern states in the union, Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, plus the District of Columbia, Nevada, and Hawaii.
So, stereotypes about the South being heavily-religious and New England tending to be less interested in religious practice seem to hold true.
Gallup collected the results of this study from Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2012, interviewing a random sample of 348,306 adults ages 18 and older (Americans from all 50 states and the District of Columbia were included). The total sample has a 95 percent confidence rate and a margin of sampling error of +/- 1 percentage point. Most state data has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points (with no state exceeding +/- 6 percentage points).
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