Tags: protestant | majority | pew | election

Pew: Protestants No Longer a Majority in United States

By Jim Meyers   |   Tuesday, 09 Oct 2012 10:34 AM

For the first time ever, the United States does not have a Protestant majority, according to a new study — and a major reason is that the number of Americans with no religious affiliation is on the rise.

The percentage of Protestant adults in the country has reached a low of 48 percent, according to the study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life reported by The Associated Press.

The drop has long been anticipated and comes at a time when no Protestants are on the U.S. Supreme Court and Republicans have their first presidential ticket with no Protestant nominees. Mitt Romney is Mormon and Paul Ryan is Roman Catholic. On the Democratic ticket, Barack Obama has worshipped as a Protestant but running mate Joe Biden is Catholic.

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The trend has political implications. Voters who describe themselves as having no religion vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Pew found Americans with no religion support abortion rights and gay marriage at a much higher rate than the American public at large.

These "nones" are an increasing segment of voters who are registered as Democrats or lean toward the party, growing to 24 percent from 17 percent over the last five years.

The religiously unaffiliated are becoming as important a constituency to Democrats as evangelicals are to Republicans, Pew said.

The Pew study, released Tuesday, found that about 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15 percent in the last five years. Pew also cites the growth in nondenominational Christians.

Scholars have debated whether people who say they no longer belong to a religious group should be considered secular. The category as defined by Pew researchers includes atheists, but it also includes majorities of people who say they believe in God, and a notable minority who pray daily or consider themselves "spiritual" but not "religious."

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Still, Pew found overall that most of the unaffiliated aren't actively seeking another religious home, indicating that their ties with organized religion are broken.

The Pew analysis, conducted with PBS's "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly," is based on several surveys, including a poll of nearly 3,000 adults conducted June 28 to July 9, 2012.

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For the first time ever, the United States does not have a Protestant majority, according to a new study and a major reason is that the number of Americans with no religious affiliation is on the rise.
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