White Christian population in U.S. has fallen below 50 percent, survey finds

(Pixabay/StockSnap)White evangelicals now comprise less than half of the U.S. population.

The number of white Americans who identify as Christians has fallen below 50 percent, according to a new survey published by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) on Wednesday.

The study, conducted from January 2016 to January of this year, has found that white Christians, once the majority in most mainline Protestant and Catholic denominations, now comprise only 43 percent of the population, compared to 81 percent in 1976.

The findings also indicated that there is a substantial drop among white evangelical Protestants, who were once seemingly immune to the decline experienced by their Catholic and mainline Protestant neighbors. Only 17 percent now identify as white evangelical Protestant, compared to 23 percent in 2006.

"This report provides solid evidence of a new, second wave of white Christian decline that is occurring among white evangelical Protestants just over the last decade in the U.S.," said PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones in a press release.

"Prior to 2008, white evangelical Protestants seemed to be exempt from the waves of demographic change and disaffiliation that were eroding the membership bases of white mainline Protestants and white Catholics. We now see that these waves simply crested later for white evangelical Protestants," he added.

The study was based on interviews with more than 101,000 Americans from 50 states and has a margin of error of plus or minus 0.4 percentage points.

It also noted that there is also a decline among white Roman Catholics and white Mainline Protestants. White Catholics have dropped five percentage points from 16 percent in 2006 to 11 percent in 2016, while white mainline Protestants dropped from 18 percent to 13 percent over the same period.

The findings showed that the share of non-white Protestants has grown steadily from 17 percent in 1991 to 33 percent in 2016.

Thirty-five percent of Republicans have identified as white evangelicals, and nearly three-quarters or 73 percent identified themselves as white Christians. In contrast, white Christians have become a minority in the Democratic Party, dropping from 50 percent to 29 percent over a 10-year period.

Other findings indicated that women are still more likely to be evangelicals than men. Women comprise 56 percent of white evangelicals, 58 percent of black Protestants and 53 percent of Hispanic Protestants.

The study also noted that the representation of the religiously unaffiliated has been growing, with as many as 20 states now having a situation where "nones" comprise a greater share of residents than any religious group. However, it found that the non-religious population is not necessarily atheistic, as atheists and agnostics comprise only 27 percent of all religiously unaffiliated Americans.

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