The number of religious “nones” in the United States are now statistically equal with the number of evangelicals, according to a political scientist who analysed data from the recently released General Social Survey (GSS). The GSS, a biennial project run by NORC (National Opinion Research Centre) at the University of Chicago, showed how America’s religious landscape continues to change. Ryan Burge, a political science researcher at Eastern Illinois University, analysed data from the survey. According to Burge’s data, 23.1% of those surveyed were people of “no religion,” while those who are evangelical, of any race, not just white, represented about 22.8% of the tally.
Despite a tiny resurgence in the 2018 data, white mainline protestants, which were once the largest U.S. religious demographic in the 1970s, were at just 10.8% of the tally, a far cry from 1975 when they were over 30%. Catholic respondents fell slightly to 23% but continue to be one of the largest two religious demographics in the U.S. The study comes as there has been a rise over the last decade plus in the number of religiously unaffiliated individuals in the United States. According to Burge’s data, the religious “nones” comprised just 5% when the GSS was first conducted in 1972. Today, religious “nones” are just under a quarter of the GSS data.
Burge said “Their share of the population is continuing to climb more than 1% every two years and has done so for the past 15 years. If current trends keep up then they will be the largest group in the United States in the next five years.” While the share of “nones” continues to rise, the number of Catholics and Protestants have dwindled over the years. The two groups were once the two largest religious groups in the nation. In 1972, the two groups comprised over 25% of the GSS tally each. Catholics, specifically, are down 3% in the last four years, according to Burge’s analysis. The peak for evangelicals came in the early 1990s when their number topped 30%.
Black Protestants continue to make up less than 10% and have not risen above 10% since 1972. Last year, polling from ABC News and The Washington Post found that between 2003 and 2017, the percentage of adult Americans that profess “no religion” grew from 12% to 21%. At the same time, the white evangelical portion of the population has shrunk from 21% to 13%. Also, that poll found that 36% of Americans identified as members of Protestant faiths (including evangelicals). In 2003, the polling found that 50% identified as a member of Protestant faith. Meanwhile, the share of those who self-identify as Catholics (22% in 2017) held steady over those years.
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