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Finding the Bible Belt

Gallup study unveils America’s religiosity
  • April 02 2012

Where is the Bible Belt? Right across the Deep South, according to the Gallup’s recent analysis of America’s religiosity.

The study found that Mississippi is the most religious state in the country, and is one of eight states were at least half of the residents are classified by Gallup as very religious. All but one of those states is located in the South, the exception being Utah.

At the other end of the spectrum, Vermont and New Hampshire were said by Gallup to be the least religious states, and are two of five states, along with Maine, Massachusetts and Alaska, where fewer than 30 percent of the residents are classified as very religious.

Overall, Gallup classifies 40 percent of Americans nationwide as very religious. This classification occurs 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 percent 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 percent 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.

Mississippi and Vermont are the two extreme of America’s religious disparity. In Mississippi, 59 percent of residents are very religious and 11 percent are nonreligious, while 23 percent of Vermonters are very religious and 58 percent are nonreligious.

More generally, eight of the 10 most religious states in 2011 are in the South (Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia), with one straddling the line between the South and the West (Oklahoma), and one in the West (Utah).

By contrast, six of the least religious states in 2011 are in New England (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island) and four are in the West (Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington), with the District of Columbia and New York rounding out the list.

Gallup research has shown that these state differences appear to be part of a "state culture" phenomenon, and are not the result of differences in the underlying demographics or religious identities in the states. For example, while Mississippi has the highest percentage of blacks of any state in the union, and while blacks are the most religious of any major race or ethnic group in the country, the Magnolia State's white residents are highly religious on a relative basis compared with whites in other states. And, Vermonters who identify as Catholics or with Protestant denominations are less religious than Southern state residents who identify with the same religions, Gallup notes.


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