(NBC News) - One in five Americans say religion does not play an important role in their lives, a new NBC/WSJ journal poll shows, the highest percentage since the poll began asking participants about their focus on faith in 1997.
21% of respondents said that religion is "not that important" to their lives, compared to 16% who said the same in 1999. In 1997, 14% of Americans said religion did not play an important role in their lives.
The poll showed that these less religious Americans are more likely to be men, have an income over $75,000, to live in the Northeast or West and to be under the age of 35.
More than half of Americans still place a major emphasis on their faith. 13% of respondents in the new poll said that religion is the most important aspect of their lives, and 41% said it is "very important."
The new numbers come as one of the world's most famous faith leaders celebrates an important anniversary. Pope Francis now has a year under his belt at the Vatican, a Person of the Year title and even his own fan magazine. And the new data shows that he's making American Catholics more committed to their faith.
Pope Francis, who has urged a focus on humility and service to the disadvantaged, fares much better in public polling than his predecessor, Benedict the Sixteenth.