N.H., with heaviest influence over elections, now least religious state

by Gregory Tomlin, |
A woman reads along in her Bible during a weekly Bible study meeting at the West Unity Methodist Church in Unity, New Hampshire. New Hampshire, which was ranked the second least religious state before the 2012 presidential primary, fell to "least religious" before the 2016 primary, according to Gallup. | REUTERS/Brian Snyder

PRINCETON, N.J. (Christian Examiner) – Religious voters in the Republican primary in New Hampshire were split between billionaire Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but it turns out both men were competing for fewer votes among the group than ever before.

Polling giant Gallup conducted nearly 200,000 interviews about religious opinions in 2015 and have determined that New Hampshire is now the least religious state in the union, overtaking last year's winner – Vermont.

Gallup interviewed at least 480 people in each state and, in most states, more than 1,000 people who described whether they were very religious, moderately religious or non-religious. "Very religious people," according to the report, are those who claimed religion was important to them and who attended services at least once a week. That number was lowest in New Hampshire.

The American Northeast, as a whole, is the least religious area of the country. Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York are "below average," while Vermont and New Hampshire rank as the "least religious" pair of states in the country. States in the American West – California, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Washington, as well as Alaska and Hawaii were also ranked "below average."

Among the remaining states, most of the southern states and Utah were considered "above average," while Mississippi and Alabama were considered the "most religious." Mississippi topped the list of most religious states for the eighth year in a row. Sixty-three percent of Mississippians classified themselves as "very religious," compared to only 20 percent in New Hampshire.

Gallup reported the religiosity of the states is shaped by history, cultural values, immigration patterns, and demography. Religion also plays a large role in the politics of each state, the survey found.

"Religion today is significantly linked to politics in the U.S., with Republicans, on average, significantly more religious than Democrats, so it could be expected that more religious states would be more Republican. This tends to be true in general, with many of the most religious states classified as solid or lean Republican in Gallup's recent analysis of 2015 party identification data," Gallup said. 

In other southern states like Arkansas and Louisiana, now swing states in national elections, those who classified themselves as "very religious" were 54 and 52 percent of the state population, respectively.

In December 2015, Gallup released its findings about Christianity in America. While it claimed that religious adherents calling themselves "Christian" still made up 75 percent of the population, it noted that the total number had declined from 80 percent just seven years before. The number of those claiming no religious affiliation rose by the same five percentage points lost in the category.

In the 1950s, 95 percent of Americans claimed to belong to a Christian denomination.