How many Wiccans are there?
An attempt to estimate the number
in the U.S.
Part 7 of seven parts
Estimates of the number of Wiccans in previous years is available in the previous essay.
2015: Updating our best estimate of the number of Wiccans in the U.S. to (almost) the present time:
Although Pew Research has conducted a number of large-scale Religious Landscape Studies (RLS) as recently as 2015, they have lumped Wiccans together with other Neo pagans, Pagans and New Age believers for reporting purposes. Thus, the most recent piece of precise evidence of the size of the Wiccan population in the U.S. seems to be the ARIS study in 2008 which was described in our previous essay.
However there might be a way to estimate the recent growth of Wicca by looking at the number of books published during a specific year that contain "Wicca" in their title. If the number of Wiccans is increasing, then one might expect that the number of books in print about Wicca would also increase. We did a search of the book section of the Amazon.com web site for the occurrence of "Wicca 2008" and found 395 books published in that year. We then repeated the search for the following years, 2009 until 2015 -- the last full year before this essay was most recently updated.
|For the year:
||Number of books published
There was an amazing increase in the number of Wiccan books published over the past eight years: about 4.6 times. This may imply that Wicca increased in membership between 2008 and 2015 by a similar factor. We conclude that the best estimate we can make, based on inadequate hard data, is that the number of Wiccan adults in the U.S. had increased from, 602,000 in 2008 to two million by the end of 2015. If one were to include teens, which religious surveys generally don't, we estimate over three million Wiccan practitioners were active in the U.S. by the start of 2017.
This number is believed to be significantly lower than the actual value because many Wiccans would probably be among the 5.4% of respondents who refused to reveal their religion in the 2008 ARIS study.
This increase to three million adult Wiccans is surprising but is still a reasonable value. The ARIS study found that the number of Wiccans more than doubled in the seven years between 2001 and 2008. So a further increase by a factor of 4.6 times in the next seven years between 2008 and 2016 may seem at first glance to be a bit of a stretch, but is believable.
Future estimates of the size of the Wiccan population:
Although there have been dozens of estimates of the Wiccan population in the U.S., almost all are based on guesswork. In order to obtain a more reliable estimate in the future, it would be necessary for a polling agency like Pew Research to do another study with a sample size in excess of 50,000 and to treat Wicca as a distinct religion rather than lump it together with other faiths in a category like "New Age." Hopefully, this will happen. Barring that, perhaps they might publicize the Wiccan population separately and explain that it is only a rough estimate. A rough estimate would be much better than no estimate at all.
Wicca relative to other religions:
If there are two million U.S. adult followers in the U.S., then Wicca would represent the second largest
religious faith, way behind Christianity and slightly more common than Atheists.
The adult population
who identify with the
largest religious classifications, according to the Pew Research Center's Religious Landscape Study of 2014 were:
Our estimate of two million adult practitioners of Wicca in the U.S. during 2015 was, to us, an unexpectedly high value. After all, it would place the number of Wiccans as exceeding the numbers of followers of such
established faith groups as: Judaism, Islam, the Society of Friends
(Quakers) (217,000), the Baha'i
Faith (84,000), and Sikhism (57,000). 1 However, it could be an accurate value. Wiccans have little direct, visible impact on society. Perhaps half are solitary practitioners and perform their rituals in isolation by themselves. Others are members of covens who generally keep a very low profile. Although groups of Wiccans meet with each other in covens and perform rituals together, they generally gather in one of the member's homes, not in a church-like setting.
"American Religious Identification Survey (2001)," Trinity College, 2013, at:
https://commons.trincoll.edu/ This essay contains a link to download a PDF file of the survey results.
Copyright © 1999 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2017-JUL-09
Author: B.A. Robinson