(By Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition). PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute)—a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy—has released their reporton the 2016 American Values Atlas (AVA), which was the single largest survey of American religious and denominational identity ever conducted.
The AVA draws upon data from more than 100,000 bilingual telephone interviews conducted among a random sample of Americans in 2016, with 40,000 interviews on political issue areas.
Because of its large sample size, the AVA allows analysis of specific census regions, all 50 states, and even 30 major metropolitan areas, while providing a rare portrait of smaller religious communities and ethnic groups.
The following is drawn from their executive summary.
1. White Christians now account for fewer than half of the public.
- Today, only 43% of Americans identify as white and Christian, and only 30% as white and Protestant.
- In 1976, roughly eight in ten (81%) Americans identified as white and identified with a Christian denomination, and a majority (55%) were white Protestants.
2. White evangelical Protestants are in decline—along with white mainline Protestants and white Catholics.
- White evangelical Protestants were once thought to be bucking a longer trend, but over the past decade their numbers have dropped substantially.
- Fewer than one in five (17%) Americans are white evangelical Protestant, but they accounted for nearly one-quarter (23%) in 2006.
- Over the same period, white Catholics dropped five percentage points from 16% to 11%, as have white mainline Protestants, from 18% to 13%.
3. Non-Christian religious groups are growing, but they still represent less than one in ten Americans combined.
- Jewish Americans constitute 2% of the public while Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus each constitute only 1% of the public.
- All other non-Christian religions constitute an additional 1%.
4. America’s youngest religious groups are all non-Christian.
- Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists are all far younger than white Christian groups.
- At least one-third of Muslims (42%), Hindus (36%), and Buddhists (35%) are under the age of 30. Roughly one-third (34%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans are also under 30.
- In contrast, white Christian groups are aging. Slightly more than one in ten white Catholics (11%), white evangelical Protestants (11%), and white mainline Protestants (14%) are under 30.
- Approximately six in ten white evangelical Protestants (62%), white Catholics (62%), and white mainline Protestants (59%) are at least 50 years old.
Read the report: America’s Changing Religious Identity