The Public Religion Research Institute released a new major report which shows that the American religious landscape is undergoing a dramatic transformation. White Christians, who represented about 80% of the population 40 years ago, now make up only 43% of the nation, according to the report by the Public Religion Research Institute (PPRI). As recently as 2007, 39 states had majority white Christian populations but today, fewer than half of all states are majority white Christian. These are two of the major findings from this report.
Those results are based on findings from PRRI’s 2016 American Values Atlas, the single largest survey of American religious and denominational identity ever conducted. More than 101,000 Americans from all 50 states were respondents in this survey.
White evangelical Protestants, the single largest religious tradition, make up less than one in five (17%) Americans today. The religious landscape in the U.S. is highly stratified by generation. No religious group has older members than white evangelical Protestants and white Catholics. The median age of white evangelical Protestants and white Catholics is 55 years old, slightly higher than white mainline Protestants at 54 years old. Unitarian-Universalists are also much older than members of other religious groups: The median age is 54 years.
The religiously unaffiliated—those who identify as “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “nothing in particular”—now account for nearly one-quarter (24%) of Americans. Since the early 1990s, this group has roughly tripled in size. When it comes to people under 30, the “Unaffiliated” make up an astonishing 38% of the population.
Among the most important findings, PPRI included the following: 1. White Christians now account for fewer than half of the public; 2. White evangelical Protestants are in decline—along with white mainline Protestants and white Catholics; 3. America’s youngest religious groups are all non-Christian; 4. White Christians have become a minority in the Democratic Party.
On the other hand, the report states that atheists and agnostics account for a minority of all religiously unaffiliated. Most are secular. Atheists and agnostics account for only about one-quarter (27%) of all religiously unaffiliated Americans. Nearly six in ten (58%) religiously unaffiliated Americans identify as secular, someone who is not religious; 16% of religiously unaffiliated Americans nonetheless report that they identify as a “religious person.”
This report also finds that Non-Christian religious groups are growing, but they still represent less than one in ten Americans combined. Of course, white evangelical Protestants remain the dominant religious force in the GOP.
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