New survey says religion was ‘disrupted’ by pandemic

Jan 12, 2023, 1:01 PM

Light shines through the stained glass windows in St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ogden on Tuesday, J...

Light shines through the stained glass windows in St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ogden on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Many things have shifted in the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and religion is not an exception. A new survey found that religious identity stayed stable but religious attendance experienced a decline.

Dan Cox from the Survey Center on American Life joined Inside Sources to discuss the survey and its findings.

Cox said that the survey asked 9000 Americans about their religious identity and habits pre-pandemic. Those same Americans were asked the questions once again in the spring of 2022.

Religion and identity stayed stable post-pandemic

Cox said that religious identities and affiliations, for the most part, didn’t change.

People who identified as Catholic, evangelical Protestant, or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pre-pandemic still identified the same way in 2022.

“That makes a lot of sense, right? Like it was only roughly a two-year period,” Cox said. “We weren’t expecting to see any real significant shifts there.”

Religious attendance

Where the real change happened was in religious attendance, Cox said.

The survey asked participants how often they attended religious services.

“We saw a pretty significant increase in the number of people who never attend.”

According to the survey, pre-pandemic, about 25% of Americans said they didn’t ever attend religious services. But when asked again in 2022, that number jumped to 33%.

Whose habits changes?

“But one of the really interesting things that is happening and something that we’ve tracked is that these national trends aren’t affecting every group or denomination equally,” Cox said.

Those with the weakest attachment to religion are the most likely to drift away. Meaning, people who only attended religious services a few times a year were more likely to stop attending services completely. 

“The three groups that we saw with the biggest declines in attendance over the pandemic were, liberals, people who were never married and young adults — those people aged 18 to 29.”

Cox noted that there is an overlap between those groups.

On the flip side, the survey found that “Conservatives, older Americans, married adults and college-educated Americans reported less of a decline in regular worship attendance.”

The survey also noted that the decline in attendance also varied based on religion. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ, white evangelical Christians and Jews reported little decline compared to white mainline Protestants and white and Hispanic Catholics. Religious attendance also decline for those who were unaffiliated but still attended services pre-pandemic.

What does it all mean?

“What we suggest is happening because of that, is we’re seeing an increase in religious polarization,” Cox said.

There is a decline in people who are moderately religious, according to the study. This means there is both a robust, active religious population as well as a completely inactive population.

The survey concluded that the pandemic “disrupted much of American society, including religious worship.”

Listen to the full segment:


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Race, Religion + Social Justice

The Capitol is pictured in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. Utah's population is facing cha...

Heather Peterson

Utah’s population changes in age and race

Utah's population is getting older with more than 12% now at or above retirement age. At the same time, part of the population now identify as a minority because of racial and ethnic diversity.

9 hours ago

Utah has the highest percentage of religious adherents than any other state in the country....

Emma Keddington

Utah has most religious adherents in the country

New data indicates that Utah contains the most religious adherents in the country. 

6 days ago

FILE: Alissa Pili #35, Lani White #3, Dasia Young #34, Kennady McQueen #24, Inez Vieira #2, Reese R...

Amie Schaeffer

No charges filed in racist incident against Utah’s women’s basketball team, NAACP responds

Jeanetta Williams reacts to the decision to not file charges against a man who yelled racial slurs at the the women's basketball team.

15 days ago

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a dedication date for a temple in Brazil ...

Mark Jones, KSLTV.com

Church announces dedication and groundbreaking dates for temples in Brazil, Bolivia and Texas

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced a dedication date for a temple in Brazil and groundbreaking dates for temples in Bolivia and Texas.

17 days ago

Columbia University students participate in an ongoing pro-Palestinian encampment on their campus f...


College campus demonstrations continue ahead of graduations

Demonstrations at college campuses continue across the country as students protest the war in Gaza cancelling some graduations.

25 days ago

West Jordan will be one of the sites for two new Utah temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latt...

Simeone Seikaly and Kyle Remund

Church of Jesus Christ announces locations for two new Utah temples

The temples to be built in Lehi and West Jordan, Utah, were announced just weeks ago during the Church's April conference.

1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

New survey says religion was ‘disrupted’ by pandemic