America’s religious landscape is changing.
Last year, for the first time ever, Protestants lost their majority status in an annual survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. Only 47 percent of America identifies as Protestant, with rates as high as 81 percent in Mississippi and as low as 10 percent in Utah.
While that shift toward being in the minority isn’t a surprise—other surveys have spotted it as far back as 2012—it does confirm the broad and ongoing cultural shifts underway in America.
“We have known for some time that America is in the midst of a religious, ethnic and cultural sea change, but until now we have not had a tool to capture these shifts adequately,” Robert P. Jones, CEO of the nonpartisan PRRI, said in a statement introducing the organization’s new American Values Atlas tool. “By updating the American Values Atlas with more than 50,000 interviews each year, we will be able to track the dramatic cultural changes that are underway at this pivotal time in our nation’s history.”
The decline in Protestantism is just one of the changes to which Jones is alluding. Seniors are three times more likely than young Americans to claim a religious affiliation, for example. And white Christians are the minority in 19 states—a trend that will likely continue as more and more states slowly become majority minority.
And those changes affect politics and policy, Jones said. White evangelical Protestants and the unaffiliated, in particular, are two groups worth noting: “Those two are kind of the most weighty in terms of thinking about the political balance in the state,” Jones said in an interview.
Here’s a look at some of the results of PRRI’s massive, bilingual survey.
Three groups dominate the states
“Unaffiliated” was the most common religious group selected by residents in 13 states (and was tied for first in Ohio and Virginia).
“At 22 percent, the religiously unaffiliated rival other major religious groups in size, such as American Catholics, who make up 22 percent of the population,” PRRI’s Joanna Piacenza wrote.
But while the unaffiliated rival other groups, White evangelical Protestants and Catholics are the most dominant, according to the survey. Each group claims the largest share of residents in 17 states (though evangelicals are tied with the unaffiliated in Ohio and Virginia). White mainline Protestants are the largest group in Iowa and North Dakota, while Mormons represent the largest religious group in Utah.
Southern states are most religious
Earlier this month, Gallup released a survey based on more than 175,000 interviews that asked residents of each state how often they attend a weekly religious service. What they found was that the most religious states were in the South, which was home to all but one of the top 12.
Catholics represent the largest religious group nationally, claiming 23 percent of those surveyed. While the survey breaks Catholics out into three categories — White, Hispanic and other — the survey’s authors said Catholics are traditionally treated as a single group in such social science comparisons. As a result, we’ve included an overall map of Catholics and separate ones for each category.
2. The unaffiliated
The unaffiliated were the second-largest religion grouping nationally, with 22 percent. Their numbers range from a third or more in Oregon, New Hampshire and Washington to as little as a tenth in Mississippi.
3. White evangelical Protestant
Evangelicals represent 18 percent of the population surveyed, with their ranks as large as 43 percent in Tennessee and as little as 4 percent in Utah. Evangelicals account for more than a fourth of the population in 16 states.
4. White mainline Protestant
White mainline Protestants account for 14 percent of the population nationally, ranging from 27 percent in South Dakota to 5 percent in Utah.
5. Black Protestant
Eight percent of those surveyed identified as black Protestants. The group’s share is as large as 32 percent in Mississippi, but in five states, they account for less than 0.05 percent.
6. Hispanic Protestants
Hispanic Protestants account for 3 percent of the population nationally. The group’s share of the population was largest in New Mexico (11 percent) and Texas (9 percent).
7. Other non-white Protestant
While non-white Protestants account for just 2 percent of the population, their share of the population in Hawaii is 24 percent. Alaska is second, with a 11 percent share.
Mormons account for just 2 percent of the population nationally, but as much as 56 percent in Utah, 20 percent in Idaho and 13 percent in Wyoming.
Just 2 percent of those surveyed self-defined as Jewish, but rates were highest in New York and New Jersey at 6 percent each.
10. Jehovah’s Witness
Just 1 percent of those surveyed defined as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
11. Orthodox Christian
Orthodox Christians account for 1 percent of the population nationally and in a number of states. Alaska is the only state where their share of the population is larger, at 5 percent.
Muslims account for 1 percent of the nation and 2 percent in Michigan, New York and New Jersey.
Just 1 percent of those surveyed identified as Buddhist nationally. Their ranks were largest in Hawaii, at 4 percent, and California and Delaware, at 2 percent each.
CORRECTION: The wording here has been changed to better express where Hindus are most strongly represented.
New Jersey and Connecticut were home to the largest share of Hindus at 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
15. Unitarian Universalist
New Hampshire was home to the largest share of Unitarian Universalists, with 2 percent identifying as such.