The percentage of Americans who self-identify as both “white” and “Christian” is now below 50 percent, meaning America is no longer a traditionally “white, Christian nation.”
The transformation is largely fueled by both an influx of immigrants (who aren’t white) and a growing rejection of organized religion – particularly Christianity – by the white, native population.
The survey – released Wednesday – shows that Christians remain a large majority in the United States, at 70 percent, but the growing percentage of those Christians are Hispanic or from other parts of the world.
But “white Christians,” who used comprise the majority of Americans – now make up only 43 percent of the population, the Public Religion Research Institute found. 40 years ago, that number was eight in ten.
Christians overall remain a large majority in the U.S., at nearly 70 percent of Americans. However, white Christians, once predominant in the country’s religious life, now comprise only 43 percent of the population, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, or PRRI, a polling organization based in Washington. Four decades ago, about eight in 10 Americans were white Christians.
Fox News reports that the trends identified in the survey are fueling anxiety about the place of Christians in society, especially among evangelicals, alarmed by support for gay marriage and by the increasing share of Americans — about one-quarter — who don’t identify with a faith group. President Donald Trump, who repeatedly promised to protect the religious liberty of Christians, drew 80 percent of votes by white evangelicals, a constituency that remains among his strongest supporters.
According to the study, about 17 percent of Americans now identify as white evangelical, compared to 23 percent a decade ago, according to the survey. Membership in the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant group, dropped to 15.2 million last year, its lowest number since 1990, according to an analysis by Chuck Kelley, president of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
“So often, white evangelicals have been pointing in judgment to white mainline groups, saying when you have liberal theology you decline,” said Robert Jones, chief executive of PRRI. “I think this data really does challenge that interpretation of linking theological conservatism and growth.”
The survey – of more than 100,000 people was conducted over an entire year, from January 2016 to January 2017. It has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 0.4 percentage points. Sometime around 2008, the once dominant “Protestant majority” officially dropped below 50 percent. Growth among Latino Christians and a stabilization among Black Christians had previously obscured the decline among white Christians.
The survey also found that more than a third of all Republicans say they are white evangelicals, and nearly three-quarter identify as white Christians. By comparison, white Christians have become a minority in the Democratic Party, shrinking from 47 percent a decade ago, to 29 percent now. Forty percent of Democrats say they have no religious affiliation.
Among American Catholics, 55 percent now identify as white, compared to 87 percent 25 years ago, amid the growing presence of Latino Catholics, according to the report. Over the last decade, the share of white Catholics in the U.S. population dropped from 16 percent to 11 percent. Over the same period, white mainline Protestants declined from 18 percent to 13 percent of all Americans.