In the U.S. ‘Nones’ Now Number with Catholics and Evangelicals

They are yet to wield electoral influence though

As per newly published 2018 data collected and analyzed by the General Social Survey (GSS), a biennial project administered by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at University of Chicago, “Nones” are presently the biggest single U.S. religious demographic at 23.1 percent. The nones or religiously unaffiliated are tied with Catholics at 23 percent. The statistics of the two are higher than evangelical Christians (22.5 percent).

Ryan Burge of Eastern Illinois University analyzed the data. The political science researcher took advantage of a religious tradition or Reltrad classification code to make up for any oversampling of Americans of African origin in previous bunches of data. Burge pointed out that the nones have been on the numerical ascendancy for a long time. It was a steady and constant increase taking about 20 years. Statisticians knew for a long time if the trend continued, such a scenario would happen. The nones are comprised of multiple ethnicities and not restricted to whites. Mainline Protestants, despite a minute resurgence detected in the 2018 data, clocked only 10.8 percent. This is a far cry from its position as the most significant religious demographic in America during the 1970s. Mainline Protestants then made up 30 percent.

This shift could mean political changes in the future. The conservative political backbone of the United States has a spine of evangelicals and the latter tolls an outsize influence on the U.S. elections. The exit polls illustrate the power of evangelicals: a massive chunk of the electorate (26 percent) was composed of white evangelicals in 2016, even when their percentage in the U.S. population had dipped much below its electoral power as per the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). Barge summed up the electoral power of evangelicals succinctly, saying the voting power and indirect influence are much more than their numbers. They tend to vote in groups and in a homogenous manner. These voters are older and white.

The evangelical influence over American elections can be neutralized by the rising tide of liberal and young voters. There is no hiccup though. American nones tend to visit the polling booth in fewer numbers, resulting in underrepresentation during elections. Meaning that the short-term impact will only be felt in religious communities, where the absence of new members will not go unnoticed.

It should be noted that “nones” or “religiously unaffiliated” is not a synonym for atheists. Nones may believe in a God but may not be in any formal religion.

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