MANILA, Philippines — The number of Filipinos who believe that religion is “very important” in their lives has gone down by 10 percentage points – from the record high of 83% recorded in December 2019 to 73% as shown by a survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) from Nov. 21 to 25, 2020.
The results of the previous survey were released in April 2020, but the poll was done in December 2019 — or before the COVID-19 pandemic affected normalcy and ushered in a massive economic crisis in the whole world.
Still, the latest figure is higher than the 69% recorded in June 2019, the SWS noted.
“The national Social Weather Survey of November 21-25, 2020, found 73% of adult Filipinos saying religion is very important in their lives, 9% somewhat important, 3% not very important, and 15% not at all important,” SWS said in its report released Wednesday.
“The view that religion is very important has been dominant in all SWS surveys since SWS began to track these responses in December 2015. The latest figure of 73% is 10 points below the record-high 83% in December 2019 but 4 points above the 69% in June 2019,” it added.
But aside from the decrease in the number of people who deem religion as “very important,” the SWS also found out that people who consider faith as something not important grew.
In 2019, 7% said that religion is “not at all important.” Fast forward to 2020, and the figure for the same category rose to 15%.
Moreover, participation in religious activities has been declining at a continuous rate: for 2020, 46% of the respondents said that they attended religious services weekly, 34% said they did it monthly, and 27% said occasionally.
But SWS said that when they started this survey, the percentage of respondents who attended religious services was at 66%.
“Weekly attendance at religious services, averaged over the entire year, began at a majority 66% when SWS first surveyed it in 1991. It fell to 58% in 1994, the next year with data, and mostly stayed somewhat above 50% until 2012, except in 2008 when it fell to a minority 47%,” the SWS said.
“It fell to an average 46% in 2013 and has since then stayed at less than half,” it added. “The 44% annual average weekly attendance at religious services in 2019 is the lowest since the 46% yearly average in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017.”
Most of the decreases in perception of importance are attributed to Christian beliefs, like among Catholics (down from 84% to 71%), and other Christians (78% to 71%).
Almost no change was recorded among Filipino Muslims, with 93% saying that religion was “very important” compared to 94% in 2019.
Meanwhile, belief that religion is “important” increased among Iglesia ni Cristo members, from 69% to 88%.
Mindanao, where most of the country’s Muslims live, had the highest regard for religion at 88%.
“The percentage of those who regard religion as very important is highest in Mindanao (88%), followed by Metro Manila and Balance Luzon (70% each), and the Visayas (64%),” the SWS said.
“Compared to December 2019, those who say religion is very important fell in the Visayas (down from 85%), in Balance Luzon (down from 82%), and in Metro Manila (down from 81%). They hardly changed in Mindanao, moving from 85% in December 2019 to 88% in November 2020,” it added.
The Philippines has been beset with several calamities since 2020, starting from the eruption of the Taal Volcano, the COVID-19 crisis, and successive storms between October and November that wrecked havoc over Luzon and parts of Visayas and Mindanao.
According to numbers from 2020, the country’s gross domestic product was at its worst since statisticians and economists tracked the number, contracting by 9.5% on a year-on-year basis.
This SWS survey was also done during the first time use of face-to-face interviews despite the COVID-19 pandemic: 1,500 adults were interviewed, segregated in terms of population density, with 600 coming from Balance Luzon and 300 each from Metro Manila, Visayas, and Mindanao.
The SWS maintains sampling error margins of ±2.5% for national percentages, ±4% for Balance Luzon, and ±6% for Metro Manila, the Visayas, and Mindanao.
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