There’s a new Gallup poll on religiosity, politics, and “well being” in America that, at least for religion, gives some surprising and some unsurprising results.
The unsurprising ones are that the five most religious states in the U.S.—with “religious” meaning “containing the highest proportion of individuals who are very religious” (i.e., those who consider religion an important part of their daily lives and who go to church once a week or almost once a week)—are Mississippi (59%), Utah (57%; Mormons, remember), Alabama (56%), Louisiana (54%), and Arkansas (54%). In fact, it’s no surprise that all of the “top” ten states are in the south save Utah and Oklahoma, which, as Abbie Smith will attest, may as well be in the south.
It’s also no surprise that the least religious states are in New England, with the proportion of “very religious” being 23% in New Hampshire and Vermont, 25% in Maine, and 28% in Massachusetts. Here’s the map (click to enlarge):
What did surprise me was the 32% of Americans who see themselves as “nonreligious”:
Gallup classifies 40% of Americans nationwide as very religious — based on their statement that religion is an important part of their daily life and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. Another 32% of Americans are nonreligious, based on their statement that religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining 28% of Americans are moderately religious, because they say religion is important but that they do not attend services regularly or because they say religion is not important but still attend services.
Since roughly 10% of Americans don’t believe in God, and only about 1.5% go so far as to describe themselves as “atheists” or “agnostics,” I wonder how many of these 32% of “nonreligious” Americans are secret atheists who just don’t like the label, or are unwilling to confess to an interviewer that—horrors!—they don’t believe in God. But before we get all excited about the growing number of nonbelievers, these data don’t square at all with Gallup’s own polls on similar issues taken over the last five years:
You can also see some “state of the states” maps from 2009-2011 giving the political leanings of Americans as well as their sense of well being. You can look at these latter two maps over three years by clicking a button, and it’s interesting to see how much more Republican the U.S. has become since 2009. Here’s the Republican map for 2011:
And finally, there are three years’ of maps for “well being” divided by state, with that index subsuming (I think) factors like health, optimism, obesity, insurance coverage, and the like. Here’s the map for 2011:
What’s striking about this map is that I see only one state—Utah—which is both highly religious and whose inhabitants have high “well being”. That goes along with the theory that low well being is correlated with high religiosity, but some alert and ambitious reader might want to do a formal correlation between the figures from the Gallup poll. If you’re into post facto rationalization, Utah makes sense because its inhabitants are Mormons, who tend to be very well off compared to other religious Americans.