The number of Americans who count themselves as members of a house of worship has fallen to below 50 percent for the first time in at least eight decades.
In a new poll published Monday, Gallup, which has tracked the data for 80 years, reports 47 percent of American adults now say they belong to a church, synagogue or mosque, compared to 53 percent who say they don't. That’s the first time a majority have reported not being a member of a house of worship since the late 30’s, when nearly 3 in 4 Americans said they were on the membership rolls somewhere.
By comparison, exactly half of Americans said they were church members in 2018, down significantly from the 70% who said the same in 1999.
In their analysis, Gallup attributed the decline in church membership to the number of Americans who say they aren’t religious at all, explaining the two have a “near perfect alignment.”
“Over the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has grown from 8% in 1998-2000 to 13% in 2008-2010 and 21% over the past three years,” Gallup reports.
On the other hand, the relatively few Americans who say they’re religious but aren’t members of a church are probably attributed to the decline in official church membership among people of faith.
“Between 1998 and 2000, an average of 73% of religious Americans belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque. Over the past three years, the average has fallen to 60%,” Gallup explains. Those who say they attend church but aren’t members tend to be in the younger demographic, with only 36% of millennials saying they formally belong to a church.