PRINCETON –– Americans’ confidence in “church and organized religion” has been on the decline since 1973 and Catholics’ confidence in that institution remains lower than that of Protestants, according to the results of a new Gallup survey released July 12.

gallupCatholics have less confidence in church or organized religion than their Protestant counterparts. (CNS graphic/Emily Thompson)Forty-six percent of Catholics express “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence” in the church and organized religion, compared to 56 percent of Protestants.

Overall, 44 percent of Americans expressed that same level of confidence in church/organized religion. The percentage is slightly lower than what Gallup has found in recent years; in 2002, it was 45 percent and in 2007, 46 percent.

“This follows a long-term decline in Americans’ confidence in religion since the 1970s,” Gallup said. In 1973, 66 percent said they had a high level of confidence in religion.

This latest poll also found Americans’ confidence in public schools, banks and television news is at its “all-time lowest, perhaps reflecting a broader souring of Americans’ confidence in societal institutions in 2012,” it added. Still, church and organized religion ranked fourth among the 16 institutions on the survey, it noted.

Gallup said the difference between Catholics’ and Protestants’ confidence level in 2012 is “in line with an average 12-percentage-point difference” between the two groups’ outlook seen in its polling since 2002, “with Protestants consistently expressing higher confidence.”

It said there were too few respondents of other religions to break out separate figures for confidence levels in each of those faiths, but taken as a single group, only 29 percent of those of all other faiths expressed “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence,” which is “far less than either Protestants or Catholics.”

According to Gallup, Catholics’ confidence dipped to a record low in 2002, the year the clergy child sex abuse scandal broke, and again in 2007, which “may have been part of a broader trend that saw confidence in most U.S. institutions drop that year,” it said.

Each year, Gallup updates its “Confidence in Institutions” questionnaire.

For the 2012 survey, Gallup pollsters interviewed 1,004 adults ages 18 and older by telephone June 7-10. Respondents were chosen at random for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.