July 8 (UPI) -- Thirty-six percent of respondents to a new Gallup poll released Monday said they have confidence in the church or organized religion, a far cry from the 60-plus percent confidence the institutions enjoyed in the 1970s and 1980s.
The annual poll, which was conducted from June 3-16, measured church or organized religions with 13 other institutions.
Confidence in church or organized religions enjoyed highs of 68 percent in the mid-1970s and from 66 to 61 percent in the 1980s before several popular televangelist scandals made national headlines, including those involving ministers Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Oral Roberts.
That confidence in churches and organized religions reached 60 percent again in early 2000, before showing an uneven fall since, partly fueled by the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. The 36 percent marks the lowest confidence in the church and organized religions since the survey's highs in the 1970s.
"The downward trend in confidence in organized religion is partly attributable to the rising share of Americans who identify as having no religion -- a group that has little confidence in organized religion, and now comprises about one-fifth of the U.S. population," Gallup's Justin McCarthy said.
"But confidence in organized religion has also declined among those who are religious, including Catholics and Protestants," he added.
Only three of the 14 institutions Gallup poll surveyed captured majority levels of confidence among the respondents -- the military (73 percent), small businesses (68 percent) and police (53 percent).
The results on confidence in the church and religious institutions appeared to support a Pew poll released last week that showed a growing number of Americans no longer claim a religious affiliation.
In that survey, 40 percent of those polled identified themselves as Protestants, which included Baptist, Methodist, nondenominational or dozens of other Protestant faiths. Twenty percent said they did not identify with a religion, topping Catholics at 18 percent.