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COVID-19 pandemic leads to more Australians regularly attending their place of worship

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, January – March 2020, n=10,852, April – June 2021, n=16,183. Base: Australians 14+.
New Roy Morgan data shows Australians are more likely to regularly attend their place of worship now than immediately prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.1% of Australians 14+ now agree that ‘I regularly go to church or my place of worship’ – an increase of 2.8% points compared to the March quarter 2020 (16.3% of Australians) just prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking at where this increase has come from shows big increases for Women, Millennials, people living in Capital Cities and the States of NSW, WA and Tasmania, while there have been small decreases for people living in Victoria and older Australians over the age of 75 (Pre-Boomers).

Although there is now little difference between women and men on the question with 19.1% of women and 19% of men reporting they ‘regularly go to church or my place of worship’ the increase has been larger for women during the pandemic (up 4.1% points) compared to a smaller increase for men (up 1.2% points).

A look at the different generations shows Millennials driving the increase with over a fifth, 21.2%, who now report they ‘regularly go to church or my place of worship’ up 5.8% points from pre-pandemic. Also increasing and above the national average is Generation Z, now at 19.8%, up 2.7% points during the pandemic.

The only exception among the generations are the Pre-Boomers, those now aged over 75. Now 22.2% of Pre-Boomers say they ‘regularly go to church or my place of worship’, down 2% points on pre-pandemic. The decline in attendance for older Australians is not surprising when one considers that COVID-19 poses the greatest risk to Australians in the oldest age groups. Even so, Pre-Boomers are still the most likely of any generation to regularly attend church or a place of worship.

% of Australians agree: ‘I regularly go to church or my place of worship’ by Gender & Generation in March Quarter 2020 (pre COVID-19) cf. June Quarter 2021

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, January – March 2020, n=10,852, April – June 2021, n=16,183. Base: Australians 14+.

People in Capital Cities, NSW, WA and Tasmania drive increased attendance at places of worship

Comparing people living in Australia’s Capital Cities with those in Country Areas reveals a striking difference with over a fifth of people in Capital Cities, 20.9%, now report they ‘regularly go to church or my place of worship’, an increase of 4.1% points during the pandemic.

In contrast now 15.5% of people in Country Areas say they ‘regularly go to church or my place of worship’ – unchanged since pre-pandemic. The key difference between the Capital Cities and Country Areas during the pandemic has been the series of lockdowns impacting cities including Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth on multiple occasions whereas Country Areas have largely avoided extended lockdowns.

The biggest increases by State have been in NSW, WA and Tasmania. Over one-in-five people in NSW (21.2%), now say they ‘regularly go to church or place of worship’, up 4.1% points from pre-pandemic and higher than any other State.

The biggest increase has been in WA in which 21% now say they ‘regularly go to church or place of worship’ – an increase of 6.6% points from pre-pandemic. In Tasmania over one-in-six people (17.2%) now agree with the statement, an increase of 6.1% points from prior to the onset of COVID-19.

The exception to the overall trend seen amongst other States is Victoria which is the only State to show a decline in people attending church or their place of worship during the pandemic to 17.3% (down 0.2% points). The likely reason for this is the long period of time Victoria has spent in lockdown, including nearly four months in the second half of 2020 while no other part of Australia was in lockdown.

The data comes from Roy Morgan Single Source, the nation’s largest and longest-running program of research into consumer behaviour and attitudes, continuously conducted year-round.

% of Australians agree: ‘I regularly go to church or my place of worship’ by Capital City/ Region and State in March Quarter 2020 (pre COVID-19) cf. June Quarter 2021


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, January – March 2020, n=10,852, April – June 2021, n=16,183. Base: Australians 14+.

Roy Morgan CEO, Michele Levine, says the once-in-a-century pandemic has led to a clear increase in Australians seeking comfort by regularly attending their church or place of worship:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge, and enduring, impact on our way of life over the last 18 months and we are only just starting to enter a period of ‘COVID-normal’ now as high vaccination rates allow locked down cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra to finally open up.

“There have been many impacts of the pandemic that aren’t immediately apparent and increasing attendance at church, or other places of worship, is one outcome that has not been widely considered.

“In the June quarter 2021 almost one-in-five Australians (19.1%) report that they ‘regularly attend church or their place of worship’, an increase of 2.8% points from pre-pandemic in the March quarter 2020 (16.3%). The increase in attendance during the pandemic, at least for the last 18 months, has halted a long-term decline in this measure we have seen over many years which reached a low of around 16% during 2019.

“The increase has been broad-based, but not uniform as the circumstances of the pandemic have had a very different impact on separate demographics across the country. Among the biggest drivers of the increase are Millennials, people aged 30-45 and typically with young families, up 5.8% points to 21.2% on pre-pandemic – more than double the increase seen for any other generation.

“Millennials are now second only to Pre-Boomers (people aged over 75) for their regular attendance at church or a place of worship. For many Millennials the pandemic has meant extended periods of working from home at the same time as taking care of primary school aged children engaged in remote learning. This has clearly been a very challenging period for many young parents.

“In contrast, Pre-Boomers are the only generation which has seen a decline in regular attendance at church or a place of worship. Hardly surprising when one considers the far higher danger posed to older Australians by the threat of COVID-19. Well over half of all Australian deaths from COVID-19 have been in those aged 75 or older.

“There has also been a clear City/Country divide during the pandemic with Australia’s Capital Cities spending far more time in lockdown than Country Areas and many cities having multiple lockdowns. The lockdowns have had an impact with regular attendance at church or a place of worship up 4.1% points to 20.9% in Capital Cities while being unchanged at 15.5% in Country Areas.

“By State the big increases have been in NSW (up 4.1% points to 21.2%), WA (up 6.6% points to 21%) and Tasmania (up 6.1% points to 17.2%). The exception to these trends has been Victoria for which regular attendance at church or a place of worship is down 0.2% points to 17.3%.

“Although lockdowns have driven attendance in other States and Capital Cities the extent of the lockdowns in Victoria, and especially the long second lockdown in late 2020, have prevented the rise in attendance seen elsewhere.

“The trends during the pandemic are clear but now that we are emerging into a ‘COVID-normal’ period with high vaccination rates, and COVID being endemic in the community, it will be interesting to see whether attendance at church or a place of worship continues to increase or returns to its previous pre-pandemic levels over the next few months.”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate

40%-60%

25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%

1,000

±3.0

±2.7

±1.9

±1.3

5,000

±1.4

±1.2

±0.8

±0.6

7,500

±1.1

±1.0

±0.7

±0.5

10,000

±1.0

±0.9

±0.6

±0.4

20,000

±0.7

±0.6

±0.4

±0.3

50,000

±0.4

±0.4

±0.3

±0.2