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What Alabamians and Iranians Have in Common: New Gallop Poll

18 February, 2009


Are Americans among the most religious people in the world? The answer depends on which “world” you’re talking about. If you’re referring to the entire planet, the answer is plainly “no.” In 2006, 2007, and 2008, Gallup asked representative samples in 143 countries and territories whether religion was an important part of their daily lives. The accompanying map shows religiosity by country, ranging from the least religious to the most religious on a relative basis. Across all populations, the median proportion of residents who said religion is important in their daily lives is 82%. Americans fall well below this midpoint, at 65%….

Social scientists have noted that one thing that makes Americans distinctive is our high level of religiosity relative to other rich-world populations. Among 27 countries commonly seen as part of the developed world, the median proportion of those who say religion is important in their daily lives is just 38%. From this perspective, the fact that two-thirds of Americans respond this way makes us look extremely devout….

What’s more, as Gallup’s Frank Newport recently pointed out, there is wide regional variation in religiosity across the 50 American states. The proportion of those who say religion is important in their daily lives is highest in Mississippi, at 85% — a figure that is slightly higher than the worldwide median (among all countries, rich and poor). Two others, Alabama (82%) and South Carolina (80%) are on par with the worldwide median.

Lining up these percentages with those on our worldwide list allows us to match residents of the most religious states to the global populations with which they are similar in terms of religiosity. The results produce some interesting comparisons — Alabamians, for example, are about as likely as Iranians to say religion is an important part or their lives. Georgians in the United States are about as religious as Georgians in the Caucasus region….

Read the whole of this really interesting article here.

And here’s the state-by-state breakdown, discussed in this article:


  1. Guy permalink
    18 February, 2009 1:27 pm

    the US map was fascinating.

    There would seem to be a correlation with blue vs. red states, eh? And with how safe it might feel in various staes for black people to live.

    Why might increased religiousness correlate with increased racism?

  2. 19 February, 2009 1:59 pm


    Being from southern Georgia, I’m very familiar with the dynamic you’re describing. But I still find it very difficult to put my finger on.


  3. onlyjustwords permalink
    23 February, 2009 5:50 pm

    We have to be careful here. Religiousness is all about interpretation. It can be used for good or evil. Where there is righteousness, there is often an absence of knowledge.

  4. onlyjustwords permalink
    24 February, 2009 3:32 pm

    I have been pondering this further, and I wish to add that while there is “religiousness”, there is also what one can term a “belief system”. What belief system is in place in the pale green states? If it is a covert belief system, then how can these pie charts accurately reflect the realities of religiousness? How can we hold any honest discussion when the [diluted] majority hold beliefs that are not formalized by some silent consensus?

    It’s kind of like a runaway game of broken telephone, right? Every ignoramus is “Illuminate”, and feeding in some frenzied “free-for-all” on the religious right, then the purpose of the thing has degraded it’s very own source of being. What contemptuous foolishness!!!

    “I wouldn’t want to be a part of any club that would have me as a member”. Remember who said that? Can’t say that I do…

  5. creedorchaos permalink*
    25 February, 2009 8:14 am


    I think you’re right, these stats don’t accurately reflect very much at all about the *true character* of the beliefs and practices of those surveyed. But the pollster’s are aware of that, and that’s not what they were trying to do with this survey. They simply wanted to know what percentage of people would agree that ‘religion is an important part of my daily life’.

    The key further question, as you point out, is what ‘religion’ means in the first place.

  6. AJM permalink
    3 March, 2009 1:13 pm

    I was not surprised to see the Pacific NW “tanned out” with irreligiosity. However, as noted above, if we were to do a survey that included neo-pagan homosexual fervor, nature-worshiping panentheism, and similar views I could guarantee you that those same states would be of the darkest shade of green that could be imagined, short of being black.

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