What was once a supermajority of white Christians — more than 80% of Americans identified as such in 1976, and two-thirds in 1996 — has now plateaued at about 44%, according to the new survey, which was conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. That number first dipped below 50% in 2012.
They have largely been replaced by Americans who do not list any religious affiliation, a group that has tripled in proportion since the 1990s. Today, the unaffiliated make up roughly a quarter of Americans. Young adults are most likely to identify this way with more than a third saying they are atheist, agnostic or otherwise secular, the study found.
On the Republican side, the preferences of white evangelicals loom large, even as the overall number of white evangelicals in America continues to decline. Though they make up just 14% of Americans overall, they remain the largest single religious group among Republican voters with the power to sway party priorities — which this year have included anti-abortion bills and policies restricting health care and sports access for transgender people.
By contrast, Democrats are a more religiously diverse group with significant numbers of religiously unaffiliated people and nonwhite Christians — including Black Protestants, Latino Protestants and Latino Catholics — along with more Jews, Muslims and other minority religions. White Catholics, such as President Biden, comprise just 13% of Democrats.