PEW: Number of American Christians Dropping; Number of 'Unaffiliated' On The Rise

By Brittany M. Hughes | May 12, 2015 | 2:31pm EDT

( -- The number of Americans who identify with Christianity has dropped substantially in the last eight years, while those who don't affiliate with any religion continue to grow in numbers, a recent study by the PEW Research Center shows.


Between 2007 and 2014, the number of Americans identifying as Christians has dropped from 78.4 percent (178.1 million people) to 70.6 percent (172.8 million people), the research shows.

While the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans remains much smaller, the group has risen from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent in the same time, PEW reports. In actual numbers, PEW reports in increase among unaffiliated Americans from about 37 million in 2007 to about 60 million in 2014. This group includes atheists, agnostics or those who claim “nothing in particular,” the report stated.

The research center’s analysis claims the decline in Christianity can be seen throughout the United States across nearly all demographics.

“While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages,” PEW’s analysis stated. “The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.”

Among Christians, Evangelical Protestants showed the smallest decline, falling from 26.3 percent to 25.4 percent. The number of Americans claiming to be Mainline Protestant in their faith fell from 18.1 percent to 14.7, a drop of 3.4 percent.

The number of Catholics dropped from 23.9 percent to 20.8 percent, a decline of 3.1 percent. This shows a decline of about 54 million in 2007 to about 51 million in 2014.

Those who identify with “non-Christian” faiths, including Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other religions, rose from 4.7 percent to 5.9 percent, the study showed.

PEW breaks the numbers down even further in the study by dividing the current number of self-reporting Christians among generational lines. Among people born 1928-45, about 85 percent identify as Christians. 

From there the numbers steadily decline, with about 78 percent of those born between 1946-64 saying they are Christians. About 70 percent of those born between 1965-80 say they are Christians, while only 57 percent of Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1989 report the same.

Among those born between 1990-96, only about 56 percent affiliate with Christianity.


Nearly 18 percent of those surveyed said they were raised in a religious faith, but now do not identify with a religion at all, PEW points out. Only about 4 percent of people surveyed say they were not raised in a religious faith and have since come to identify with one.

While the total number of Christians has declined according to PEW’s study, the data show Christians have grown in diversity in recent years.

“Even as their numbers decline, American Christians – like the U.S. population as a while – are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse,” PEW stated. 

“Racial and ethnic minorities now make up 41% of Catholics (up from 35% in 2007), 24% of evangelical Protestants (up from 19%) and 14% of mainline Protestants (up from 9%),” the study added.

The number of Evangelical Protestant church members has actually grown from roughly 60 million in 2007 to 62 million in 2014, PEW added, adding that “once the margins of error are taken into account, it is possible that the number of evangelicals may have risen by as many as 5 million or remained essentially unchanged.”

For its report, PEW compared a 2007 telephone survey of more than 35,000 adult Americans with a 2014 telephone survey of 35,071 adult Americans. PEW reported each survey had margins of error of less than one percent.

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