America’s religious landscape is changing.
Last year, for the first time ever, Protestants lost their majority status in an annual survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. Only 47 percent of America identifies as Protestant, with rates as high as 81 percent in Mississippi and as low as 10 percent in Utah.
While that shift toward being in the minority isn’t a surprise—other surveys have spotted it as far back as 2012—it does confirm the broad and ongoing cultural shifts underway in America.
“We have known for some time that America is in the midst of a religious, ethnic and cultural sea change, but until now we have not had a tool to capture these shifts adequately,” Robert P. Jones, CEO of the nonpartisan PRRI, said in a statement introducing the organization’s new American Values Atlas tool. “By updating the American Values Atlas with more than 50,000 interviews each year, we will be able to track the dramatic cultural changes that are underway at this pivotal time in our nation’s history.”
The decline in Protestantism is just one of the changes to which Jones is alluding. Seniors are three times more likely than young Americans to claim a religious affiliation, for example. And white Christians are the minority in 19 states—a trend that will likely continue as more and more states slowly become majority minority.
And those changes affect politics and policy, Jones said. White evangelical Protestants and the unaffiliated, in particular, are two groups worth noting: “Those two are kind of the most weighty in terms of thinking about the political balance in the state,” Jones said in an interview.
Here’s a look at some of the results of PRRI’s massive, bilingual survey.
Three groups dominate the states
“Unaffiliated” was the most common religious group selected by residents in 13 states (and was tied for first in Ohio and Virginia).
“At 22 percent, the religiously unaffiliated rival other major religious groups in size, such as American Catholics, who make up 22 percent of the population,” PRRI’s Joanna Piacenza wrote.