Americans may have positive associations with individual churches or pastors. However, thinking of them collectively, U.S. adults no longer offer them the benefit of the doubt.
Americans increasingly don’t trust the church or pastors, as confidence and trust have eroded to historic lows for the institution and its leaders.
Gallup’s most recent annual surveys on Americans’ institutional confidence and honesty ratings for professionals found trust in both the church and pastors reaching their lowest points in the history of the surveys.
Lack of confidence in the church
Gallup’s survey of confidence levels in institutions found significant declines for 11 of the 16 institutions, including the church or organized religion, and no improvements for any of the groups. Only two institutions, small businesses (68%) and the military (64%), garnered a great deal or quite a lot of confidence from a majority of Americans.
After dropping 5 points last year, the church suffered another 6-point fall in 2022. Currently, only 31% of Americans say they have quite a lot or a great deal of confidence in the church or organized religion, with just 14% expressing a great deal of confidence. Almost 2 in 5 Americans (37%) say they have some confidence in the church, while 29% say they have very little. Another 2% have none, and 1% have no opinion.
Gallup first began tracking U.S. adults’ confidence in the church as an institution in 1973. In 1975, a high mark of 68% expressed a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the church.
After a downward trajectory, the church experienced a boost of confidence in 2001, as most other national institutions did in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, rebounding to 60% for the first time since 1987. That marked the last time at least 6 in 10 Americans had confidence in the church.