Religion by Region

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Gallup has surveyed Americans for religion’s importance and broken the results up by state. Here’s the map:
Importance of Religion.png
So what’s the explanation? Says Gallup: The question of why residents of some states (e.g., Mississippi and other Southern states) are highly likely to report that religion is an important part of their lives, while residents of other states (e.g., Vermont and other New England states) are much less likely to report the same is fascinating, but difficult to answer simply. Well, the simplest explanation is membership in religious institutions. New England and the Pacific Northwest (OR, WA, AK) have the lowest membership rates, with the rest of the West (except Utah and New Mexico) not far behind. By contrast, what we call the Southern Crossroads (TX, OK, LA, AR, MO) and some but not all states in the South have the highest membership rates. Of course, that to some extent begs the question, which Gallup does not presume to answer. In case you’re interested, I can recommend Silk and Walsh, One Nation Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics.
And while we’re on the subject, in the past election, Obama carried all the least religious states except Alaska, while McCain carried all the most religious except North Carolina and all the “more religious” except Virginia and Indiana. Other than McCain’s Arizona, the three northernmost Mountain states (ID, MT, and WY), and two-thirds of Nebraska, Obama carried all the “less religious” and “average” states. In other words, the 2008 election makes clear how much of a dividing line religiosity is in American politics.