NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some Surprises in Religious Survey

September 19, 2002

A survey said to be the most definitive of its kind reveals there are far fewer Muslims in the U.S. than previously thought. The Religious Congregations and Membership Survey of 2000 is the latest of a series of 10-year surveys conducted by the Glenmary Home Missioners, a Cincinnati Catholic organization.

One of the survey's most surprising findings was a much lower estimate of the U.S. Muslim population. While Islamic groups have produced estimates of seven million, the survey came up with just 1.6 million. But that is just the number associated with America's more than 1,000 mosques, not all adherents to Islam.

Here are some other interesting findings of the survey:

  • As expected, the Catholic church has the largest membership nationally; the state of Utah with a preponderance of Mormons has the highest rate of church membership (around 75 percent) and Oregon has the lowest church affiliation (around 31 percent).
  • Through immigration and birth, Hispanics are largely responsible for the growth in many congregations -- most, but by no means all of them, Catholic.
  • Overall, 50.2 percent of the nation's 280 million people are claimed by a local congregation.
  • Religious affiliation has dropped nationally by a few percentage points in the past 10 years -- with 71 percent of U.S. counties showing no gains in what the survey refers to as "claimed" people.

One reason for the census is to find out at the county and state levels how much of the population is "unclaimed" by religious groups -- and thus fertile ground for religious recruitment.

Source: Larry Witham, "Number of Muslims in U.S. Below Estimates," Washington Times, September 19, 2002.


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