A religious landscape survey released Tuesday finds that 54% of U.S. adults believe in “God as described in the Bible,” even though most Americans no longer attend religious services regularly.
The annual survey on American religious habits, conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion for Deseret News, found that 40% of adults attend a religious service at least once or twice a month. That’s a 12% drop from April 2011, when Marist found 52% of respondents doing so.
Americans aged 60 or older proved most likely to attend services at least weekly, with 43% saying they do so. That share decreased to 27% for 45- to 59-years-olds, 25% for 30- to 44-year-olds, and 21% for 18- to 29-year-olds.
“While the state of religion is continually changing, our study found that the majority of Americans still hold core religious beliefs and draw moral guidance from their families and their faith traditions,” said Hal Boyd, executive editor of Deseret National.
Mr. Boyd cited the survey’s finding that the “vast majority of Americans, 7 in 10, believe the country would be better off if we prayed for each other.”
“Despite headlines that emphasize religion’s decline, faith remains a strong moral force in American life,” he said.
The survey also found that 72% of respondents, including 74% of practicing Christians and 69% of nonreligious Americans, agreed that “the nation’s moral compass is pointed in the wrong direction.”
While 90% of self-identified Republicans said America’s moral compass is broken, only 51% of Democrats said the same.
And only 22% of adults said the nation’s moral compass is pointed in the right direction.
Most adults (65%) do not believe “being religious” is necessary to live a moral life.
The largest percentages of respondents listed family (79%), friends (65%) and the rule of law (66%) as their primary sources for moral guidance.
That exceeded the 63% who said they look to religious teachings and 57% who look to local religious leaders.
Still, religious teachers and leaders ranked higher than politicians, celebrities and athletes.
Only 16% of adults — including 18% of those who practice a religion, 17% of Christians and 14% of those who do not practice a religion — said they are likely to look to political leaders for moral guidance.
Another 10% said they would look to talk show host Oprah Winfrey, 10% to athletes and 12% to favorite social media influencers for moral guidance.
The survey found that 91% of those who do not practice a religion and 93% of those who do said they believe in the necessity of following the Golden Rule to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” in their personal lives.
Michael Conte, a Marist researcher, said the annual poll provides “a unique and detailed look into how America’s changing demographics are impacting the role religion plays in society.”
“The survey explores the evolving relationship between Americans’ personal religious identities and traditional religious institutions, shedding light on a growing trend that Americans are becoming less connected to religion on an institutional basis but continue to consider their religious affiliation to be a key component of their personal identity,” Mr. Conte said.
The Salt Lake City-based Deseret News, one of Utah’s oldest newspapers, is owned by a holding company of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Using live interviewers, Marist conducted the landline and mobile telephone survey of 1,653 U.S. adults in collaboration with Deseret Jan. 19-26. The margin of error for the 2022 Faith in America Survey is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.