What the Polls Don't Show: A Closer Look at U.S. Church Attendance

Journal Article

Consistently high levels of participation reported in US poll data suggest an exceptionally religious population, little affected by secularizing trends. This picture of vitality, however, contradicts other empirical evidence indicative of declining strength among religious institutions. Here, poll data & attendance reports from Protestant & Catholic churches are examined in an effort to reconcile the contradiction; data for Protestants are from a rural Ohio county & data for Catholics are from 18 dioceses. Analysis indicates that cumulative attendance totals from both types of churches were much lower than would be expected from self-reports of attendance in public opinion polls. It is concluded that actual church attendance rates for both are approximately 50% of reported levels, implying a large gap between what Americans do & say they do in terms of church participation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hadaway, CK; Marler, PL; Chaves, M

Published Date

  • 1993

Published In

  • American Sociological Association