Poll: Nearly Half of Kentucky is "Very Religious"
By Frank Newport
Politicians tend to live and die by them, but for many Americans polls aren’t a matter of life and death, just pretty interesting.
Leading pollster Gallup is gradually rolling out data from all 50 states gathered during 2013, and its latest numbers have Kentucky ranked in the top quarter of states on its level of religiosity.
Based on a poll of 2,707 Kentuckians, the state is ranked 11th out of 50 on religiosity with 49 percent identifying as “very religious,” 30 percent considering themselves “moderately religious” and 22 percent saying they’re “nonreligious.” The most religious state in the country is Mississippi with 61 percent labeled “very religious.”
The Gallup polls are based on telephone interviews conducted between Jan. 2 and Dec. 29, 2013, of a random sample of 174,699 adults, 18 and over, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of total sampling error is 1 percent plus or minus and is 95 percent accurate, reports Gallup, although most states have a sampling error of 3 percent plus or minus.
Gallup classifies Americans as very religious if they say religion is an important part of their daily lives and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. More than four in 10 Americans nationwide, or 41 percent, fit this classification in 2013. Saying religion is not an important part of their daily lives and that they seldom or never attend religious services are 29 percent.
The remaining 29 percent were moderately religious, saying religion is important in their lives but that they do not attend services regularly, or that religion is not important but that they still attend services.
Gallup began tracking religion using this measure in 2008, and the nationwide proportions of Americans in each of the three religious categories have remained generally stable since then. The percentage “very religious” is slightly higher in 2013 than it was in 2012, 2011 and 2008, while the percentage of nonreligious Americans is slightly lower in 2013 than in any previous year.
See below for a video of Dr. Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, explaining the poll results:
The differences in religiousness across states can have several causes. For example, the Southern states have a higher percentage of Protestants than the national average, and Protestants have above-average religiousness. The New England states have a higher percentage of those with no religious identity at all, and these residents are of course much lower than average on the religiousness scale.
Still, previous research shows that even among those in the different regions who have the same religious identity, state-level cultural differences still affect average religiousness. Protestants in Mississippi are more religious than Protestants in Vermont, and those with no religious identity in Mississippi are more religious than those with no religious identity in Vermont.
Additionally, although states vary significantly in their racial and ethnic composition, differences in religiosity between states persist even among residents of the same races. Whites in Mississippi are more religious than whites in Vermont, and blacks in New England are less religious than blacks in the South.
Utah is the exceptional state. Mormons are the most religious of any category or denomination Gallup routinely measures, and Utah’s majority Mormon population clearly explains why Utah stands out so remarkably from its much less religious neighboring states.
Frank Newport is the editor-in-chief of Gallup. This article first appeared at RCN partner KY Forward.
Photo: St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington