New Research Shows Historic Decrease in Number of People Calling Themselves Evangelicals
A PRRI poll is demonstrating new trends in the changing landscape of religion in America. A survey from the Pew Research Center shows a decrease in the number of white evangelical Protestants. The number has dropped from 23% to 17% of the United States population. The second important figure was only 11% of white evangelical Protestants were under 30.
This has two important implications. First, this may signal a shift in how religion is being viewed in America. Previously, white evangelical Protestant numbers were consistent, while the number of people associated with other Christian denominations had decreased. The explanation was that having a strong tie to an original interpretation of the Bible and not trying to shift with cultural changes made a strong community. But it seems that this is no longer working. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention, an evangelical denomination, has lost more than 1 million members in the last decade.
The second is the split with younger members. Young members are not abandoning their faith. But they are becoming less comfortable with being associated with evangelicals. Part of this is the close association of evangelicals with political conservatism. The attacks on the LGBT community, Islamophobia, and being associated with political actions that do not resonate with younger populations are causing this distancing. This balances with the non-religious groups on the rise, where one-third believe conservative Christians are a threat to their safety.
In addition, the numbers of Americans who believe religion is key for morality is decreasing. This means a larger segment of the population is becoming less willing to have unbending moral principles be dictated. One Christian thinker has proposed a solution to be the removal and separation of evangelical involvement in American politics. It is still unclear if the ties are too strong or perceived too strong for this to be viable.