There is an interesting new Pew poll that shows that the number of Americans without affiliation to any religion is continuing to rise — as is the number of Americans who now classify themselves as atheists or agnostics. The numbers of “nones” has grown to 56 million in recent years, making it the second largest number behind evangelicals. From 2007 to 2014, Americans describing themselves as as atheist, agnostic or of no particular faith grew from 16 percent to nearly 23 percent. This is roughly one out of four Americans. Pew found a rising tide of secularism in the United States. It is an interesting poll since religious groups tend to have far greater political power in the country as shown by various “faith-based” policies.
I have written previously (here) on how both Republicans and Democrats, including President Obama (here), have embraced faith-based politics. Yet, in addition to strong support for separation of church and state, many Americans disclaim any faith-based affiliation.
Notably, the largest group of faith followers (Christians) has shown the greatest decline in numbers. In the latest poll, Christians dropped from about 78 percent to just under 71 percent of the population. Protestants now comprise 46.5 percent the country.
Last year, 31 percent of the “nones” said they were atheist or agnostic as compared to 25 percent in 2007. In addition, the percentage who said religion was important to them has dropped.
The question is how the parties, and particularly the Republican party, will respond to this trend. Notably, people with no religion tend to vote Democratic, while white evangelicals tend to vote Republican. The greatest drops among Christians were seen among more liberal Protestants and Roman Catholics.
Mainline Protestants declined by about 5 million to 36 million between 2007 and 2014. The study put the number of Catholic adults at 51 million, or just over one-fifth of the U.S. population, a drop of about 3 percent over seven years.
While there was an increase in Muslims and Hindus, both groups comprise less than 1 percent of the U.S. population. The number of Jews rose slightly over the period, from 1.7 percent to 1.9 percent of Americans.
It is fascinating to see these demographic shifts as well as the relative political power that is held by various groups in our political system.
With one out of four Americans in the “none” category, it will be interesting to see if the rising secular values in our country will translate to changes in either party — or whether the determinative factor will continue to be the concentrated voting blocks or influence of particular faith-based groups.
Source: PEW Study