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2008 Gallup Poll suggests Wisconsin a less religious state compared to national average

February 26, 2009

A national Gallup Poll conducted throughout 2008 suggests Wisconsin is a less religious state than those around it, with 61 percent of interviewees saying religion is an important part of their daily life.

Wisconsin’s religiosity is just four points below the national average of 65 percent. In contrast, the four surrounding states all had scores of 64 percent. 

Campus organizations relating to the subject of religion were asked to offer input on this statistic. The UWRF Free Thought Society noted factors which may explain Wisconsin’s lower score in the poll.

A large factor could be the fairly liberal environment in cities such as Milwaukee and Madison. Madison was of particular note because as Free Thought member Trevor Tomesh said, the capitol is where the Freedom From Religion Foundation is headquartered.

The FFRF is a freethought organization formed to promote separation of church and state and the removal of religion from public life. It is the only organization in the country to produce a national freethought radio broadcast.

Like the Free Thought Society, members of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship were also asked for input. Rather than stating why Wisconsin was lower, however, it was said why the surrounding states were likely higher.

“Something about the surrounding states, I think there are states that are really churched,” Fellowship member Tim Prince said.

According to Prince, there is a slightly stronger presence of Christianity in Wisconsin’s neighbor states. The Willow Creek Association, an organization with over 1,200 member churches, is headquartered in Chicago. Also, Michigan houses a large Christian publisher, and according to Prince, the Twin Cities area in Minnesota has more mega-churches per capita than anywhere else in the country.

Regardless of why Wisconsin scored less in the poll, both groups interviewedsaid they believe that UWRF is at least marginally more openly religious than other colleges in the area. Prince suggested this may be due to the demographic that attends UWRF.

“Half come from the Twin Cities, the other half come from rural Wisconsin. If I were to guess, River Falls is more religious by a little bit,” Prince said.

Members of the Free Thought Society said River Falls may appear more religious due to socialization reasons.

“I think a lot of people go along with it because they have friends in it,” Society member Jessica Kohls said in reference to religious groups on campus. They also mentioned how religions, Christianity in particular, tend to get more exposure and funding than some other groups.

Nationwide, the most religious state, according to the Gallup Poll, was Mississippi at 81 percent. The least religious state was Vermont at 42 percent. Wisconsin placed 31st overall.