Historical religious demographics of the United States

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The U.S. census has never asked Americans directly about their religion or religious beliefs, but it did compile statistics from each denomination starting in 1850.[1]

Finke and Starke used a statistical manipulation of the official census data after 1850, and Atlas for 1776, to estimate the number of Americans who were are were adherents to a specific denomination. In 1776 their estimate is 17%. In the late 19th century, 1850-1890, the rate increased from 34% to 45%. From 1906 to 1952, the rate grew from 51% to 59%.[2]

The data here comes from Gallup, which polled Americans annually about their denominational preferences since 1948. Gallup did not ask whether a person was a formal member of the denomination. Blank means that there is no data available for a given year. All of the percentages here are rounded, so 0% could actually mean 0.01% to 0.49% if one would be able to see the entire number.[3]

% of Americans by religious affiliation (1948-2011)
Religion 1948 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2011
Protestant 69% 66% 70% 67% 69% 65% 60% 61% 57% 56% 56% 52% 49% 45% 42%
Catholic 22% 25% 22% 25% 24% 26% 27% 28% 28% 25% 27% 25% 23% 21% 23%
Non-denominational Christian 5% 7% 8% 10%
Mormon 2% 1% 1% 2% 2% 2% 2%
Jewish 4% 4% 4% 3% 3% 3% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2% 2%
Other religions 0% 3% 2% 2% 2% 2% 4% 2% 3% 5% 5% 5% 5% 4% 5%
None 2% 2% 2% 2% 3% 6% 7% 8% 9% 6% 8% 10% 14% 13%
Undesignated 3% 2% 1% 1% 0% 0% 1% 0% 1% 2% 2% 2% 2% 4% 3%

According to the Pew Research Center the percentage of Protestants in the United States has decreased from over two-thirds in 1948 to less than half by 2011 with 48% of Americans identifying as Protestant.[4] This decline in Protestant immigration has corresponded to the relaxation of immigration restrictions pertaining to mostly non-Protestant countries. The percentage of Catholics in the United States increased from 1948 all the way to the 1980s, but then began declining again. The percentage of Jews in the United States has decreased from 4% to 2% during this same time period. There has been very little Jewish immigration to the U.S. after 1948 in comparison to previous years. The number of people with other religions was almost nonexistent in 1948, but rose to 5% by 2011, partially due to large immigration from non-Christian countries. The percentage of non-religious people (atheists, agnostics, and irreligious) people in the U.S. has drastically increased from 2% to 13%. The number of Americans unsure about their religion and religious beliefs stayed roughly the same over the years, always hovering at 0% to 4%.[3]

% of Americans by Protestant religious affiliation (1992-2011)
Religion 1992 1995 2000 2005 2010 2011
Southern Baptist 9% 10% 8% 5% 4% 4%
Other Baptist 10% 9% 10% 11% 13% 9%
Methodist 10% 9% 9% 8% 7% 5%
Presbyterian 5% 4% 5% 3% 3% 2%
Episcopalian 2% 2% 3% 3% 2% 1%
Lutheran 7% 6% 7% 5% 5% 5%
Pentecostal 1% 3% 2% 2% 2% 2%
Church of Christ 2% 2% 2% 1% 2%
Other Protestant 11% 9% 4% 5% 4% 5%
Non-denominational Protestant 1% 3% 4% 5% 5% 4%
No opinion 5% 1% 2% 1% 2% 1%

Over the last 19 years, some of the more traditional Protestant denominations/branches experienced a large decline as a percentage of the total American population. These include Southern Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Other Protestants. The only Protestant branch that significantly increased its percentage share over the last 19 years is non-denominational Protestanism. The Protestants who were unsure about which branch of Protestanism they believed in also drastically declined as a percentage of the U.S. population over the last 19 years.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Religion - Publications - US Census Bureau". Census.gov. Retrieved 2012-09-17. 
  2. ^ Roger Finke; Rodney Stark (2005). The Churching of America, 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy. Rutgers U.P. p. 16. 
  3. ^ a b c "Religion". gallup.com. Gallup, Inc. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  4. ^ Boorstein, Michelle. "One in five Americans reports no religious affiliation, study says." The Washington Post. October 9, 2012.