Congregants attend Easter Sunday services at a church in Baltimore. (Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images)
Congregants attend Easter Sunday services at a church in Baltimore. (Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images)

Black and Hispanic adults in the United States have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak and are more likely than white Americans to be concerned about contracting the virus and unknowingly spreading it to others. And these racial and ethnic discrepancies extend to the perceived safety of attending religious services during the outbreak, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Black, Hispanic Americans who typically attend religious services more skeptical they can safely do so now without catching, spreading COVID-19

Nearly three-quarters of white adults who report that they regularly attend religious services (72%) say they are “very” or “somewhat” confident they could safely attend in-person services right now at their regular house of worship without spreading or catching the coronavirus. By contrast, around half of Black (49%) and Hispanic (51%) Americans who are similarly observant express such confidence. The other half of Black and Hispanic attenders say they are “not too” or “not at all” confident they could safely go to in-person religious services right now without spreading or catching the virus, according to the survey, which was conducted July 13 to 19.

In this analysis, regular religious service attenders are defined as those who said in a 2019 survey that they typically attend services at least once or twice a month or say in the new survey that they attended in-person services in the last month.

How we did this

Pew Research Center conducted this survey to help understand how the coronavirus outbreak has affected the worship habits of Americans. For this analysis, we surveyed 10,211 U.S. adults, including 3,756 who said in a 2019 survey that they typically attend religious services at least once a month or who said in the new survey that they attended in-person religious services during the past month. The survey was conducted from July 13 to 19, 2020. All respondents to the survey are part of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. For more, see the ATP’s methodology and the methodology for this report.

The questions used in this analysis can be found here.

Black, Hispanic worshippers less likely than their white counterparts to attend in-person services during pandemic

Black and Hispanic worshippers also are less likely than their white counterparts to say they have actually gone to church or another house of worship recently. Just 19% of Black adults who typically attend religious services at least monthly (according to the 2019 survey) say they have gone to in-person services in the past month, and one-in-four Hispanic worshippers report having done so. By comparison, 39% of white worshippers say they attended in-person services in the last month.

Not surprisingly, those who say they feel safe attending in-person services are much more likely to have actually attended in-person services this summer, and this pattern holds true across racial and ethnic groups.

At the moment, watching religious services online or on TV is the more popular option for worshippers across racial and ethnic groups, although Black religious attenders (77%) are somewhat more likely than white (71%) and Hispanic (68%) attenders to say they have watched religious services online or on TV in the last month.

The higher levels of caution that Black and Hispanic adults have with respect to COVID-19 also are apparent when it comes to opinions about how – or if – houses of worship should be operating right now. Black and Hispanic attenders are far more likely than white attenders to say that their own congregation should be closed for in-person services: About four-in-ten Black (42%) and Hispanic attenders (37%) say this, compared with 21% of white attenders.

Roughly four-in-ten Black, Hispanic congregants think their house of worship should now be closed because of the coronavirus outbreak

It is not that most white attenders think their congregations should be open without restrictions; just 15% say their houses of worship should currently be open to the public as normal, just as they were before the pandemic. But among white attenders, a majority (63%) think their congregation should be open for in-person religious services with modifications in place due to the coronavirus outbreak – such as social distancing, mask requirements or limited attendance. Fewer Black (44%) and Hispanic (51%) attenders say this is the right option for their congregations.

Opinions about what houses of worship should be doing during the coronavirus outbreak seem to reflect what respondents’ congregations actually are doing. White worshippers are much more likely than their Black and Hispanic counterparts to report that their congregations are holding in-person services with precautions in place. Roughly two-thirds of white attenders (65%) say their congregation is open in this way, compared with fewer Black (37%) and Hispanic (41%) worshippers. Meanwhile, about four-in-ten Black and Hispanic attenders say the congregation they attend most often is currently closed for in-person worship, compared with one-quarter of white attenders who say this.

Note: Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Economy & WorkVoters & VotingCommunismFederal GovernmentDefense & National SecurityDisasters & AccidentsInternational TechnologyRacial & Ethnic IdentityReligious Identity & AffiliationReligion & ScienceBuddhismComparison of Age GroupsDivorcePovertyTrust in ScienceEnvironmentOnline DatingGig & Sharing EconomiesOnline SearchNews CoverageData ScienceHappiness & Life SatisfactionBorder Security & EnforcementGlobal Tech & CybersecurityHuman RightsReligious Characteristics of Demographic GroupsScienceVoter DemographicsPopulismMilitary & VeteransTerrorismReligion & GovernmentImmigration AttitudesRacial & Ethnic ShiftsBeliefs & PracticesKnowledge & EducationHinduismGender & PoliticsIntermarriageWealthScience News & InformationTechnology AdoptionSocial Relations & TechInternet of ThingsE-CommerceNews Content AnalysisDemographic ResearchTime UseTechnology & ImmigrationRace, Ethnicity & PoliticsGlobal Balance of PowerNATOInternet & TechnologyVoter ParticipationNationalismNon-U.S. GovernmentsWar & International ConflictSocial Security & MedicareImmigration IssuesRacial IntermarriageInterreligious RelationsReligionsOther ReligionsEconomics, Work & GenderSame-Sex MarriageHomeownership & RentingSTEM Education & WorkforceDigital DivideStresses & Distraction OnlinePlatforms & ServicesEmailMedia PolarizationAmerican Trends PanelLifestyleGender & ReligionReligious ExtremismReligion & PoliticsUnited NationsNews Habits & MediaElection System & Voting ProcessPresidential ApprovalState & Local GovernmentNuclear WeaponsWorld LeadersIntegration & IdentityRace, Ethnicity & PoliticsReligion & Social ValuesChristianityReligiously UnaffiliatedGender Pay GapUnmarried AdultsMiddle ClassReligion & ScienceTechnology Policy IssuesUser DemographicsInternet ConnectivityBlogsElection NewsInternational Survey MethodsDeath & DyingYounger AdultsU.S. Religious DemographicsCoronavirus (COVID-19)COVID-19 & TechnologyMethodological ResearchElection NewsDonald TrumpReligion & GovernmentMilitary & VeteransWorld ElectionsImmigration & Language AdoptionRacial & Ethnic GroupsReligion & AbortionCatholicismComparison of ReligionsGender & LeadershipParenthoodFuture of WorkScience Funding & PolicyPolitics OnlineTeens & TechSocial MediaE-ReadingPresidents & PressSurvey MethodsK-12TaxesCOVID-19 & ScienceCyberattacksRural, Urban and Suburban CommunitiesOther TopicsWorld ElectionsAngela MerkelProtests & UprisingsDiscrimination & PrejudiceGlobal Image of CountriesCitizenshipBlack AmericansBiotechOrthodox ChristianityGenerationsEducation & GenderFertilityEmployee BenefitsScience IssuesDigital News LandscapeChildren & TechMobileMedia & SocietyTrust, Facts & DemocracyTelephone SurveysHigher EducationAge, Generations & TechReligious TypologyOnline SurveysUnionsPolitical IssuesPolitical Parties & PolarizationNarendra ModiParty IdentificationDrug PolicyU.S. Global ImageFamily ReunificationAsian AmericansReligion & Death PenaltyProtestantismGeneration ZGender RolesRomance & DatingUnemploymentScience KnowledgeLifestyle & Relationships OnlineOlder Adults & TechEntertainmentNews Media TrendsTrust in MediaNonprobability SurveysStudent LoansBroadbandReligious CommitmentU.S. CensusPew-Templeton Global Religious Futures ProjectU.S. Elections & VotersPolitical TypologyVladimir PutinPolitical AnimosityFree Speech & PressChina Global ImageLegal ImmigrationHispanics/LatinosReligion & LGBTQ AcceptanceEvangelicalismMillennialsMotherhood & FatherhoodFriendshipsGender & WorkGene EditingEducation & Learning OnlineRacial & Ethnic Groups OnlineMore Platforms & ServicesPolitics & MediaFacts & Fact CheckingVoter FilesElection 2004Media Layoffs & EmploymentPope FrancisEducation & Learning OnlineElection 2022ReligionElection 2020Political DiscourseMore LeadersLeadersGun PolicyOrganizations, Alliances & TreatiesRefugees & Asylum SeekersHispanic/Latino DemographicsReligious Freedom & RestrictionsPentecostalismGeneration XGender Equality & DiscriminationEconomic ConditionsGig & Sharing EconomiesClimate, Energy & EnvironmentHealthcare OnlineRural Residents & TechFacebookMedia AttitudesBots & MisinformationEducationElection 2006Religious Knowledge & EducationPope Benedict XVILeisureIsrael Global ImagePolitics & PolicyElection 2018Political & Civic EngagementBill ClintonDemographics & PoliticsHealth PolicyEuropean UnionImmigration & EconomyHispanics/Latinos & LanguageNon-Religion & SecularismMainline ProtestantismBaby BoomersSexual Misconduct & HarassmentIncome, Wealth & PovertyGovernment Spending & the DeficitFood ScienceOnline Privacy & SecurityGender & TechTwitterMisinformationAmerican News Pathways 2020 ProjectLibrariesElection 2002Educational AttainmentPope John Paul IICOVID-19 & the EconomyQualitative ResearchInternational AffairsElection 2016Politics & MediaGeorge W. BushGenerations, Age & PoliticsHealth CareBilateral RelationsHigh-Skilled ImmigrationHispanics/Latinos & EducationReligious Leaders & InstitutionsHistorically Black ProtestantismSilent GenerationLGBTQ Attitudes & ExperiencesBusiness & WorkplaceGlobal TradeHuman EnhancementNet NeutralityEmerging TechnologySmartphonesFreedom of the PressState of the News Media (Project)Personal LifeUnauthorized ImmigrationInternational Political ValuesGlobal HealthCOVID-19 in the NewsTestImmigration & MigrationElection 2014Political Ideals & SystemsBarack ObamaGender & PoliticsMigration IssuesInternational IssuesVisas & EmploymentHispanics/Latinos & IncomeReligion & GovernmentMormonismGreatest GenerationGender IdentityEconomic PolicyRemittancesMedicine & HealthOnline Harassment & BullyingFuture of the Internet (Project)AppsNews KnowledgeTelevisionPublic KnowledgeImmigration TrendsOnline Random Sample SurveysRecessions & RecoveriesSurvey BasicsPartisanship & IssuesRace & EthnicityElection 2012DemocracyGovernmentEducation & PoliticsLGBTQ AcceptanceEnvironment & ClimateRemittancesHispanic/Latino IdentityReligion & PoliticsJudaismComparison of GenerationsSame-Sex MarriageEconomic SystemsStudent LoansSpaceMisinformation OnlineArtificial IntelligenceTextingMedia IndustryNewspapersOccupational GroupsCOVID-19 & PoliticsScientists' ViewsGovernment Spending & the DeficitResearch ExplainersPolitical PolarizationGenerations & AgeElection 2010AuthoritarianismTrust in GovernmentIssue PrioritiesNational ConditionsGlobal Economy & TradeRacial Bias & DiscriminationHispanic/Latino VotersInternational Religious Freedom & RestrictionsIslamAgeHousehold Structure & Family RolesPersonal FinancesRetirementVaccinesTech CompaniesAlgorithmsVideoNews Platforms & SourcesAudio, Radio & PodcastsMilitary & VeteransAtheism & AgnosticismJournalistsUnemploymentInstagramU.S. DemocracyGender & LGBTQElection 2008CapitalismSupreme CourtAbortionPrivacy RightsInternational TerrorismSegregationWhitesReligious DemographicsMuslim AmericansTeens & YouthFamily CaregivingIncome & WagesBirth Rate & FertilityClimate ChangeOnline ActivismAutomationGamingDigital News LandscapeNews Audience DemographicsPoliceJoe BidenPoliceReligion & BioethicsEvolutionPolitical PartiesFamily & RelationshipsElections Before 2008SocialismCongressDeath PenaltyCriminal JusticeNuclear WeaponsRace RelationsMore Racial & Ethnic GroupsGlobal Religious DemographicsMuslims Around the WorldOlder Adults & AgingMarriage & DivorceEconomic InequalityGenderEnergyCivic Activities OnlineBotsMusicLocal NewsSocial Media & the NewsJournalistsImmigrant PopulationsWar & International ConflictYouTubeSize & Demographic Characteristics of Religious GroupsReligion & Race
Claire Gecewicz  is a former research associate focusing on religion research at Pew Research Center.