Mississippi, Alabama and other Southern states are among the most highly religious states in the nation, while New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine in New England are among the least devout, according to some of the key measures used to determine levels of religiosity in the Pew Research Center’s most recent Religious Landscape Study.
To begin, select a state to see where it ranks in terms of overall religiosity. In exploring the interactive it is important to keep in mind that differences between two states may not always be statistically significant due to the margins of error that are inherent in this survey data.
There are many potential ways of defining what it means to be religious, but for the purposes of this analysis, we looked at four common measures of religious observance: worship attendance, prayer frequency, belief in God and the self-described importance of religion in one’s life. The interactive tool above allows you to rank the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia by each of these measures – and by the percentage of adults in each state who are “highly religious” overall.
What does it mean to be “highly religious”? In our analysis, this includes any adult who reports at least two of four highly observant behaviors – attending religious services at least weekly, praying at least daily, believing in God with absolute certainty and saying that religion is very important to them — while not reporting a low level of religious observance in any of these areas, such as seldom or never attending religious services, seldom or never praying, not believing in God and saying that religion is “not too” or “not at all” important in their life. We also define a person as “highly religious” if they report three highly religious behaviors and a low level of religiosity on a fourth measure.
In Alabama and Mississippi, 77% of residents are highly religious by this definition. In both states, for instance, 82% believe in God with absolute certainty. In addition, three-quarters of Mississippians say they pray at least once a day and 77% of Alabama residents say religion is very important in their lives.
Meanwhile, only about a third of people in New Hampshire (33%), Massachusetts (33%), Vermont (34%) and Maine (34%) qualify as highly religious by these criteria. Roughly one-in-five residents of these states report attending religious services at least weekly, and roughly half or fewer say they are certain of God’s existence.