Protestant numbers drop sharply while those who declare no religion nearly double, polls indicate

The number of Americans who say they’re members of Protestant denominations have dropped sharply from 2003 through last year while those who declare no religion at all have nearly doubled during the same time frame, ABC News reported, citing new and previous polls.

What are the numbers?

About 36 percent of Americans identified as members of a Protestant faith in 2017 — down from 50 percent in 2003, according to ABC News/Washington Post polls, which also noted an 8-point drop in the number of evangelical white Protestants.

36% of Americans identify themselves as members of a Protestant faith, down from 50% in 2003, per @ABC News/WaPo poll.

— ABC News (@ABC) May 12, 2018

Christians overall have declined from 83 percent of the adult population in 2003 to 72 percent last year, the network said, adding that within the same time frame, the number of Americans who profess no religion has nearly doubled — to 21 percent.

Holding steady, however, during the time frame are self-identified Catholics (22 percent) and the percentage of Protestants who say they’re evangelical or born-again (56 percent), ABC News said.

Evangelical white Protestants

Given that 80 percent of evangelical white Protestants supported President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, the network said, the group’s numbers were of interest.

And it turns out that the number of evangelical white Protestants have declined from 21 percent of the American adult population in 2003 to 13 percent in 2017, ABC News said.

Non-evangelical white Protestants dropped from 17 percent to 11 percent in the same time frame, the network indicated.

It appears that a higher percentage of whites have tossed off Protestant labels as compared with other groups. While 39 percent of whites now identify with Protestant denominations — down 13 points since 2003 — there was only an 8-point drop among Hispanic Protestants (22 percent to 14 percent) and just a 3-point decline among black Protestants (64 percent to 61 percent), ABC News said.

No religion

The number of adults saying they identify with no religion has jumped from 12 percent in 2003 to 21 percent in 2017, the network said. Among that group are 3 percent who say they’re atheists, 3 percent who say they’re agnostic and 15 percent who say they have no religion, ABC News said, adding that the percentages were similar in 2003.

The age group with the highest percentage claiming no religion? Those in the 18-to-29-year-old bracket, with 35 percent making that declaration, the network said, adding that just 13 percent of those 50 and older say they have no religion.

The “no religion” numbers also are higher among men than women (25 v. 17 percent), higher among college graduates than those without degrees (25 v. 20 percent) and among whites and Hispanics than among blacks (22 and 20 percent v. 15 percent), ABC News said.

Politically speaking, 35 percent of liberals report no religious affiliation compared with 21 percent of moderates and 12 percent of conservatives, the network said, while 23 and 25 percent of Democrats and independents, respectively, don’t identify with a religion, as compared to 10 percent of Republicans.

And while 80 percent of evangelical white Protestants supported Trump, 67 percent of those with no religious affiliation supported Hillary Clinton in the election, ABC News said.

Politically speaking…

Among evangelical white Protestants, 48 percent identify as Republicans, 31 percent as independents and only 14 percent as Democrats, the network noted, adding that among Mormons, 53 percent say they’re Republicans, 34 percent identify as independents and 9 percent say they’re Democrats.

About 57 percent of Muslims and 48 percent of Jews say they’re Democrats, ABC News added, noting that only 5 percent of Muslims and 16 percent of Jews say they’re Republicans.

Similarly, six in 10 Mormons — and nearly as many evangelical white Protestants — say they’re conservatives, the network said, adding that conservative numbers were lower among white Catholics (38 percent), non-evangelical Protestants (about a third) and Jews (just 16 percent).

And about four in 10 Jews, Muslims and non-religious adults are liberals, ABC News said.


This analysis was based on 174,485 interviews from ABC News and ABC News/Washington Post polls conducted by telephone from 2003 to 2017, focusing mainly on 2003 and 2017 data, which included 7,185 and 5,017 interviews, respectively, the network reported.

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