Pew survey: Half of U.S. Catholics pray every day, and the number is dropping

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A new survey of U.S. adults found that 51% of Catholics pray every day, down from 59% from 2014. Meanwhile, the portion of Americans with no religious affiliation continues to rise.

Those are some of the highlights of a new Pew Research Center survey, which focuses on changes in the U.S. religious landscape. The responses show that much of America is still religious, but significantly less than it once was. 

All of America’s religions have recorded downward trends in various categories — except for the “nones.” 

The “nones,” a group that includes atheists, agnostics, and those identifying as nothing in particular, now make up almost 30% of the population, up from 23% in 2016. In 2011 they stood at 19%. 

Results from Pew Research Center's survey of religion in the U.S. Pew Research Center
Results from Pew Research Center's survey of religion in the U.S. Pew Research Center

While the “nones” grow, Christians shrink. Currently, the Christian population, which includes Catholics, Protestants, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Orthodox, makes up 63% of the overall U.S. population, Pew reported. 

While the Protestant share of the population has experienced a decline of 10 percentage points over the past 10 years, those identifying as Catholic have remained “relatively steady,” the survey found.

In 2021, 21% of U.S. adults identify as Catholic. The Catholic share of the U.S. population, which had been in decline since 2007, is now back up to where it was in 2014, Pew found.

1 in 5 Catholics don’t pray regularly

While 20% of Catholics say they don’t pray or seldom pray, the other 80% pray more regularly.

Although just 51% of Catholics pray every day, 29% reported praying weekly or monthly, Pew found. Much of that prayer must be happening at home or somewhere else each week, though, because only 26% of Catholics report attending religious services at least once a week.

By comparison, 61% of Protestants reported praying every day, while 22% say they pray weekly or monthly. Only 10% of Protestants seldom or never pray. 

 A little less than 10% of Catholics attend religious services once or twice a month. That leaves the far majority of Catholics, 65%, only attending religious services a few times a year or less. While the majority are infrequent attendees, only 14% of Catholics said they “never” attend.

Results of Pew Research Center survey on religion in the U.S. Pew Research Center
Results of Pew Research Center survey on religion in the U.S. Pew Research Center

Rating the importance of religion

Religion is very important in the lives of 48% of Catholics, the survey found. That’s down by 10 percentage points from 2014. 

A little more than 3 in 10 Catholics say religion is somewhat important to them, identical to the number in 2007. 

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For almost one-fifth of Catholics today, religion is not too important or not at all important, Pew’s survey shows. That’s up from 10% in 2014. 

Protestants regard religion as more important in their lives than Catholics, the survey found. Sixty-five percent of Protestants reported religion being very important in their lives compared to 48% of Catholics. Catholics who said religion was somewhat important in their life numbered 34%, just 7% more than Protestants, according to the survey. 

Only 8% of Protestants said religion was not too important or not at all important in their lives. Eighteen percent of Catholics said the same thing. 

‘Nones’ pray, too

A little more than 1 in 10 “nones” say they pray on a daily basis, the survey found.

Although 71% of “nones” seldom or never pray, 13% are praying daily, and 16% pray weekly or monthly. 

Not only has the size of the “nones” group increased, but every subgroup within that population has grown, as well. 

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In 2007, 2% were atheist, 2% were agnostic, and 12% identified as “nothing in particular.” Today, 4% are atheist, 5% are agnostic, and 20% identify as nothing in particular. 

Decline in daily prayer

Less than half (45%) of Americans pray on a daily basis. That’s down 10% from 2014 and 13% from 2007.

A little more than one-fifth of adults pray weekly or monthly, the same as recorded in 2007. Still, the portion of Americans who say they seldom or never pray has risen from 14% in 2007 to nearly one-third (32%) today. 

A quarter of Americans are attending religious services once a week, while just 7% attend once or twice a month. In 2007, 54% of Americans were attending religious services monthly or more, the survey found.

Most Americans, 68%, attend religious services a few times a year or less. Twenty-seven percent say they never attend.

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