By Joy Allmond
Protestants are still the nation’s predominant religious group—largely thanks to black Americans who consistently identify with this group as whites and Hispanics fall away.
More than a third (36 percent) of Americans identified themselves as Protestant in 2017, according to a report based on a series of ABC News/Washington Post polls conducted via 174,485 telephone interviews from 2003 to 2017. This is down from 50 percent in 2003.
The number of evangelical white Protestants fell by 8 percentage points—from 21 to 13 percent.
But black Americans have remained consistent: 61 percent still identify as Protestant, a drop of a mere 3 percentage points since 2003.
Thirty-nine percent of white Americans say they’re members of a Protestant denomination—a decrease of 13 points since 2003. The drop could be due in part to the 8-point decrease (from 69 to 61 percent) in the white non-Hispanic population from 2000 to 2016, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The number of Hispanics who identify as Protestant dropped from 22 to 14 percent.
Most Protestants identify themselves as members of a particular Protestant tradition or denomination, such as Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Pentecostal, and others.
The number of Americans who identify as Catholic held steady over the 14-year period, at around 22 percent. One contributor to this stability could be the increase in the nation’s Hispanic population, since half of Hispanics identify themselves as Catholic.
Yet, even among whites, the number of people who say they are Catholic has barely decreased from 2003 (22 percent) to 2017 (20 percent).
From 2003 to 2017, the number of Americans who don’t identify with a religion nearly doubled—from 12 to 21 percent. This number includes 3 percent who say they are atheists and another 3 percent who identify as agnostic.
The largest group claiming no religious affiliation is 18- to 29-year-olds, at 35 percent, compared to 13 percent among 50 and older. Among all surveyed, more men (25 percent) than women (17 percent) say they have no religious affiliation.
College graduates are more likely to say they are not religious (25 percent) than those without a degree (20 percent).
The ABC poll results corroborate other research. In Gallup polls, 38 percent identify as Protestants, down 12 points from 2003, and the number who say they have no religious affiliation doubled, from 10 to 20 percent.
Additionally, the Public Religion Research Institute found 24 percent of Americans identified as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular in 2017, a 10-point increase since 2004.
- Protestant Church Attendance Stable, But Warning Signs Remain
- Protestantism Still Dominates African-American Faith, But Shifts Emerge
- Generation Z Features Growing Atheism, Steady Protestantism
JOY ALLMOND (@joyallmond) is managing editor of Facts & Trends.