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There have been two big trends about religion in the U.S. in recent years. One is that the number of white Christians is declining, and the number of Americans who say they're not affiliated with any religion is growing. A huge new survey has found that those trends are finally stabilizing. NPR's Becky Sullivan has more.
BECKY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: America used to have a supermajority of white, non-Hispanic Christians. Back in 1976, white Christians made up 80% of all Americans. But in the 1990s, that started changing rapidly. And now, for the first time, those new numbers seem to be settling into place, the new survey finds, with white Christians making up about 44% of Americans and people who say they have no religious identity making up about a quarter.
ROBERT P JONES: These things tend to be generational, and this really began with the millennial generation.
SULLIVAN: That's Robert P. Jones, the CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, the nonpartisan group that conducted the survey.
JONES: That's the generation that grew up really seeing the Christian right as the most public expression of religion. And it was a partisan, very conservative - and that had commitments, like anti-gay commitments, that really ran against the kind of values of that generation.
SULLIVAN: The PRRI survey is called the 2020 Census of American Religion. It is not affiliated with the U.S. Census Bureau because the U.S. census has not widely asked about religion since the 1950s. So researchers set out to fill in the gap with an ambitious, comprehensive survey. Over the last seven years, they conducted nearly 500,000 interviews, asking about things like race and ethnicity and age and political preference. Republicans, they found, are overwhelmingly likely to be white and Christian. Democrats, meanwhile, are much more religiously diverse, with lots of white Christians, yes, but also big groups of Black Protestants, Latino Catholics and people who aren't religious at all. Jones says those findings also correlate with age, but in very different ways.
JONES: The Democratic Party today, in terms of race and religion, looks about, like, 30-year-old America, right? So it seems to have adjusted to the dramatic demographic changes quite well.
SULLIVAN: While Republicans, he says, look more like 70-year-old America.
Becky Sullivan, NPR News.
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