by Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service, 7/8/21.
White Christian decline has slowed. Mainline Protestants now outnumber white evangelicals. New York is home to several of the most religiously diverse counties in the U.S.
These shifts and findings are among some of the notable revelations documented in a sweeping and exhaustive survey of the U.S. religious landscape by the Public Religion Research Institute.
The 2020 Census of American Religion, released on Thursday (July 8), is based on what researchers called an “unprecedented” dataset that includes hundreds of thousands of respondents surveyed between 2013 and 2019.
Clergy and other faith leaders will be perhaps most interested in PRRI’s finding that religiously unaffiliated Americans, or “nones” in religion demography parlance, have lost ground, making up just 23% of the country. The complex group — which includes atheists, agnostics and some people who say they pray daily but don’t claim a specific faith tradition — peaked at 25.5% of the population in 2018.
White Christians, meanwhile, have expanded their share of the population, particularly white mainline Protestants. That group sits at 16.4%, an increase from 13% in 2016, whereas white evangelicals — who PRRI delineated from white mainliners using a methodology researchers said is commonly utilized by major pollsters — now represent about 14.5% of the population, down from a peak of 23% in 2006. White Catholics now hover around 11.7%, up from a 2018 low of 10.9%.
The percentage of white Christians ticked up overall, rising from 42% in 2018 to 44% in 2020.