A Third of Adults Under 30 Are Unaffiliated; U.S. Protestant Population Dips Below 50%
WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report from the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life shows that the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion is growing at a rapid pace. About one-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under age 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling. In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).
This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives. However, many of the country's 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), more than a third classify themselves as "spiritual" but not "religious" (37%), and one in five say they pray every day (21%).
The growth in the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans – sometimes called the rise of the "nones" – is largely driven by generational replacement, the gradual supplanting of older generations by newer ones. A third of adults under 30 have no religious affiliation (32%), compared with just one in ten among those who are 65 and older (9%). And young adults today are much more likely to be unaffiliated than previous generations were at a similar stage in their lives.
While the ranks of the unaffiliated have grown significantly over the past five years, the Protestant share of the population has shrunk. In 2007, 53% of adults in Pew Research Center surveys described themselves as Protestant. In multiple surveys conducted in the first half of 2012, fewer than half of American adults say they are Protestant (48%). This marks the first time in Pew Research Center surveys that the Protestant share of the population has dipped significantly below 50%. The decline is concentrated among white Protestants, including those who consider themselves born-again or evangelical Protestants as well as those who do not.
This report is based on an analysis of dozens of Pew's surveys conducted in recent years among tens of thousands of respondents. It also includes findings from a new survey conducted jointly by the Pew Research Center and the PBS television program "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly," produced by Thirteen for WNET New York. The "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly" is also producing a three-part mini-series, "None of the Above: The Rise of the Religiously Unaffiliated," based in large part on the survey's findings. It will begin airing nationally on PBS the weekends of October 12, 19 and 26 (check local listings).
The full report is available on the Pew Forum's website.
The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life conducts surveys, demographic analyses and other social science research on important aspects of religion and public life in the U.S. and around the world. As part of the Washington-based Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, non-advocacy organization, the Pew Forum does not take positions on policy debates or any of the issues it covers.
SOURCE Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life