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U.S. church membership plummets, with biggest drops among Democrats, Hispanics

People waiting on the arrival of the body of Saint Maria Goretti, the youngest canonized saint in the Catholic Church, outside St. John Cantius Church early Monday. | Brian Jackson/ For the Sun-Times

NEW YORK — The percentage of U.S. adults who belong to a church or other religious institution has plunged by 20 percentage points over the past two decades, hitting a low of 50 percent last year. That’s according to a new Gallup poll released Thursday.

The biggest drops were recorded among Democrats and Hispanics among major demographic groups.

Gallup said church membership was 70 percent in 1999. The figure has fallen steadily since then, while the percentage of U.S. adults with no religious affiliation jumped from 8 percent to 19 percent.

Among Americans identifying with a particular religion, there was a sharp drop in church membership among Catholics — dropping from 76 percent to 63 percent over the past two decades as the church was buffeted by clergy sex-abuse scandals. Membership among Protestants dropped from 73 percent to 67 percent.