Yesterday, Gallup released its 2009 numbers on church attendance (based on more than 350,000 interviews), breaking down the results by state. The distribution is not entirely surprising:
Mississippians were the most frequent churchgoers in the nation in 2009, as was the case in 2008, with 63% of residents attending weekly or almost every week. Nine of the top 10 states in church attendance are in the South; the only non-Southern state is Utah, with 56% frequent attendance. At the other end of the spectrum, 23% of Vermont residents attend church frequently, putting it at the bottom of the list of churchgoing states. Other states at the bottom of the church attendance list are in either New England or the West.
Frank Newport, author of the report, tosses around a number of possible factors contributing to the overall pattern, including the predominance of Protestant and non-Catholic Christianity—as well as the relatively large black population—below the Mason-Dixon, and the high concentration of Mormons in Utah. However, reproductive determinants cannot be discounted:
There also may be cultural differences across states that are related to religious behavior. These differences may be so strong that they help shape the behavior of newly arrived residents. Or, certain types of people may be attracted to certain types of states. Individuals who are attracted to Vermont and Alaska, by way of example, may be the types of people who are less inclined to participate in religious services than are those attracted to Southern or Midwestern states.