Lost Confidence

Forty-four percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in “the church or organized religion” today, just below the low points Gallup has found in recent years—45 percent in 2002 and 46 percent in 2007. This follows a long-term decline in confidence in religion since the 1970s. In 1973, “the church or organized religion” was the most highly rated institution in Gallup’s measure of confidence in institutions and it continued to rank first in most years through 1985, outranking the military and the U.S. Supreme Court. That began to change in the mid- to late 1980s as confidence in organized religion first fell below 60 percent. The rate returned to 60 percent in 2001, only to be rocked the following year by charges of child molestation and coverup in the Catholic Church. The same poll found Americans’ confidence in public schools, banks and television news at all-time lows. Currently 56 percent of Protestants express a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in church/organized religion, compared with 46 percent of Catholics.

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