WASHINGTON — Mississippi is, far and away, the most religious state in the country — ranking first among the 50 states in a nationwide poll in four categories: the importance of religion to residents; the frequency of prayer; the attendance at worship services and the certainty of a belief in God.
According to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life survey released Tuesday, Mississippi scored highest across the board, with 82 percent of Mississippians saying religion was very important in their lives; 60 percent saying they attend services at least once a week; 77 percent saying they pray daily; and 91 percent saying they believe in God with absolute certainty.
Other Southern states also ranked high in the poll, with Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and South Carolina all scoring 70 percent or higher on the importance of religion in people's lives.
North Carolina was eighth with 69 percent; Georgia ninth with 68 percent, Kentucky 10th with 67 percent and Texas 11th with 67 percent.
The Pew Center found that "at the other end of the spectrum," fewer than four in 10 people living in New Hampshire and Vermont, which each scored 36 percent, and Alaska, with 37 percent, said religion is very important to them.
The national average: 56 percent of citizens who say religion is very important to them.
On attending church services, the poll found that the Magnolia State leads the nation with at least weekly frequency by 60 percent of citizens, while the national average is 39 percent. South Carolina scored third with 54 percent, North Carolina ninth with 49 percent and Texas 13th with 47 percent.
Alaska is the least observant state, with regular attendance by only 22 percent of those surveyed.
Mississippians also pray more than others, with 77 percent saying they pray at least once daily, compared to the national average of 58 percent. South Carolinians also pray frequently, ranking fourth with 72 percent; North Carolina was ninth with 68 percent and Texas was 11th with 66 percent.
Alaska was next to last with 41 percent. The state with the least number of residents who pray frequently is Maine, with 40 percent.
Finally, in the fourth category — belief in God — 91 percent of Mississippians said they have an absolute certainty in the existence of a higher being.
The top 10 states where the poll found a strong belief in God were all Southern, except the 10th, Utah, where the Mormon Church is based. South Carolina was second with 86 percent, Kentucky was seventh with 83 percent, Georgia eighth with 81 percent, North Carolina ninth with 81 percent and Texas 13th with 77 percent.
The national average for certainty of belief in God was 71 percent, with the lowest percentages in New Hampshire and Vermont, each with 54 percent. Alaska was 42nd with 61 percent.
The poll was conducted by telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 35,556 adults living in the continental U.S. The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. There were supplementary interviews with 547 people queried from an earlier survey of Muslim Americans, as well as another 500 interviews with residents who only had cell phones.
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