How American adults view themselves
2007 to 2015:
Retaining the young. Gender.
People who have switched denominations or religion:
The year 2008 ARIS survey asked the subjects whether they had changed their
religious identification during their lifetime. Some results:
||About 16% of adults have changed their identification.
For most of them, the change was abandoning all religion. They became "NOTAs" -- NOT Affiliated with any religion or denomination.
||Baptists picked up the largest number of people transitioning from another religion: 4.4 million.
However they also lost 4.6 million members who went elsewhere.
||Roman Catholics lost the greatest number, 9.5 million. However, they
also picked up 4.3 million.
The pollsters commented:
"Some groups such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses appear to
attract a large number of converts (in-switchers), but also nearly as large
a number of apostates (out-switchers). It is also interesting to note that
Buddhists also fall into this category of what one might call high-turnover
religious groups." 1
The year 2008 ARIS survey found that 22% of couples reported that the two of them identified with
different faith groups; they were an inter-faith couple. Defining the term "couple" broadly to include
both married and living together partners, some 28 million adults live in a
mixed religion household. Percentages range from a high of 42% for
Episcopalians to a low of 12% for Mormons. Adults for whom over 30% live in a
mixed-faith home include Buddhists, non-denominational Christians, and Jehovah's
Witnesses. Adults for whom fewer than 20% live in mixed-faith homes are
Baptist, Churches of Christ, Assemblies of God, and Church of God.
One problem with these data is that a couple consisting of, say, a Southern
Baptist and United Church of Christ member would be considered as being of the
same religion, and not in a inter-faith relationship. Yet the theological and
social beliefs of the two might be almost as different as between a Methodist and
a liberal Muslim spouse. 1
Retaining the young:
It is common for young adults to drift away from the faith group of their
youth. Some never return. The large liberal and mainline Christian
denominations seem to lose large numbers in this way. Only between 10 and
12% of those identifying with the Congregational, Episcopalian, Methodist,
Presbyterian, and United Church denominations are between the ages of 18 and
29. Islam and Buddhism appear to fare the best in this area; 56 and 58% of
persons identifying with these religions are in this age group. 1
The ratio of females to males who identify with different faith groups
varies over a wide ratio. Only 38 or 39% of Seventh-Day Adventists,
Buddhists, and Muslims are women; 55% or more of the persons identifying
with the Episcopalian, Methodist, Pentecostal, or Presbyterian denominations
are female. 1
Adults identifying with a specific faith group are almost evenly split
among Republicans, Democrats and Independents. But those who do not identify
with a religion are 43% Independent, 39% Democrat, and 17% Republican.
59% of Assemblies of God followers prefer the Republican party; only 13%
of religious Jews and 9% of Buddhists agree. 56% of Jews prefer the
Democratic party; only 14% of Mormons and 12% of those who identify
themselves simply a Evangelical or Born-again agree. 2
Geographical distribution of faith groups:
Over 40% of adults in many Northeastern states identify with the Roman
Catholic Church, including Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.
Baptists number over 40% in Southern states such as Alabama, Georgia, North
Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Those who identify with "no
religion" are in the majority in some Northwestern states, including
Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. 1,3
A Barna survey titled "Markets 2011 and States 2011" involved interviewes by 39,423 adults. Two reports from this survey discuss the percentage of residents in various cities within the contiguous U.S. states who are either Christian or are skeptics -- defined by Barna as being either Atheist or Agnostic. They found:
"The cities (measured in the Barna research as media markets) with the highest proportion of residents who describe themselves as Christian are typically in the South, including: Shreveport (98%), Birmingham (96%), Charlotte (96%), Nashville (95%), Greenville, SC / Asheville, NC (94%), New Orleans (94%), Indianapolis (93%), Lexington (93%), Roanoke-Lynchburg (93%), Little Rock (92%), and Memphis (92%)."
"The lowest share of self-identified Christians inhabited the following markets: San Francisco (68%), Portland, OR (71%), Portland, ME (72%), Seattle (73%), Sacramento (73%), New York (73%), San Diego (75%), Los Angeles (75%), Boston (76%), Phoenix (78%), Miami (78%), Las Vegas (78%), and Denver (78%).
An interesting difference is the markets that tend toward skepticism about religion in general – including Portland, ME (19% of the population identify as being atheist or agnostic), Seattle (19%), Portland, OR (16%), Sacramento (16%), and Spokane (16%) – as compared to markets that have a high proportion of faiths other than Christianity represented – including New York (12%), San Francisco (11%), West Palm Beach (10%), Baltimore (8%), Denver (8%), Los Angeles (8%), Portland, Oregon (8%), and Miami (8%). 3,4
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Barry A. Kosmin, et al., "American Religious Identification Survey 2008,"
Trinity College, 2008-DEC-19, at: http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read them. Software can be
obtained free from:
"Exhibit 14: Political party preference by selected religious groups,
2001" at: http://www.gc.cuny.edu/
"Barna Report: Markets 2011 and States 2011." Barna Group, at: http://www.barna.org/
"New Barna Report Examines Diversity of Faith in Various U.S. Cities," Barna Group, 2010-OCT-11, at: http://www.barna.org/
Copyright © 2001 to 2016 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-DEC-15
Latest update: 2016-MAR-20
Author: B.A. Robinson