A woman holds a Crucifix as the choir sings at the Way of the Cross event on March 30 in New York City. A Gallup study found that Catholic church attendance in the United States has been on a steady decline in the last decade. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
April 9 (UPI) -- Weekly church attendance among Catholics in the United States has been on a steep and steady decline over the past decade, Gallup data released Monday indicate.
Gallup's data found an average of 39 percent of Catholics reported attending church within the past seven days between 2014 and 2017, compared with 45 percent from 2005 to 2008.
Within the same period of time, weekly church attendance among Protestants -- defined by Gallup as people who identify as Christian, Protestant or any specific Protestant faith -- remained relatively unchanged, declining by about 1 point to 45 percent.
The largest decrease in weekly church attendance among Catholics occurred between the 1950s and 1970s when it fell from nearly 75 percent to less than 50 percent.
Following this decline, which was driven primarily by younger Catholics, 49 percent of Catholics older than 60 reported attending church weekly between 2014 to 2017.
"In particular, older Catholics have become less likely to report attending church in the past seven days -- so that now, for the first time, a majority of Catholics in no generational group attend weekly," Gallup said.
Young people -- between the ages of 21 and 29 -- remain the least likely to attend church weekly in either group at 25 percent among Catholics and 36 percent among Protestants.
The 21 to 29 age group was also the least likely to report an affiliation with any religion, with 33 percent identifying with no religion and 14 percent selecting "other."
Despite the decrease in weekly attendance most respondents reported attending church at least semi-regularly with majorities of most age groups stating they attend church once a week, every week or once a month. The youngest age group among both Protestants and Catholics was the one exception, as the majority specified they seldom or never attended church.
The data for the survey was compiled from multiple Gallup surveys conducted near the middle of each decade beginning in 1955. During the surveys Catholic sample sizes ranged from 1,188 to 4,295 and Protestant sample sizes from 2,649 to 11,656.