By Aaron Earls
While people couldn’t physically visit churches for much of 2020, their opinion of the church or organized religion grew.
For the first time since 2013, Americans’ confidence in the institution of the church increased in Gallup’s annual tracking poll.
The percentage who say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the church climbed from 36% to 42%.
The six-point jump is the largest one-time increase for the church since Gallup began conducting the survey in 1973.
“The increase in confidence in the church at least temporarily halts the long-term decline in its ratings,” according to Gallup’s report.
In the 1970s, confidence levels among the American public in the church hovered in the upper 60s. Consistent declines marked much of the 1980s and 1990s.
Still, a clear majority of Americans had confidence in the church at the turn of the century. After climbing to 60% in 2001 for the first time since 1987, levels fell regularly all the way down to 36% last year.
A significant split remains among how younger and older Americans view the church. For those under 55, 36% have confidence. Among those 55 and older, 54% express confidence.
The church isn’t the only institution to experience a bounce in confidence this year. Being directly challenged by the pandemic, both the medical system and public schools saw sizable jumps.
The medical system climbed 15 points, one of the largest on record in Gallup’s survey, from 36% in 2019 to 51% in 2020. Public schools jumped 12 points from 29% to 41%.
Others that saw an increase in the American public’s confidence level include banks (+8 points to 38%) and small business (+7 points to 75%).
Confidence in the police fell to its lowest level on record (-5 points to 48%).
The institutions in which the highest percentage of Americans have confidence are: small business (75%), the military (72%), and the medical system (51%). Those are the only ones with a majority.
Immediately beneath those are the police (48%), the church or organized religion (42%), the Supreme Court (40%), the presidency (39%) and banks (38%).
This year, Gallup asked about confidence in large technology companies for the first time. Around a third (32%) express a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in them.
Fewer Americans have confidence in organized labor (31%), newspapers (24%), criminal justice system (24%), big business (19%), television news (18%), and Congress (13%).
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.