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America's Changing Religious Landscape: Protestants on the Decline, No Religion on the Rise


Recent national polls reveal a shift in the country's religious composition with individuals who say they are members of a Protestant denomination on the decline, while people who say they have no religion are on the rise.

According to ABC News, last year 36 percent of Americans participating in ABC News/Washington Post polls said they were Protestant. This continues the trend downward from 50 percent who identified as Protestant 15 years ago. Also included is an 8-point drop in evangelical white Protestants.

Among all of the Protestants who were polled, 56 percent currently say they're "evangelical" or "born-again" essentially holding steady since the survey conducted in 2003.

According to the survey, most Protestants don't identify themselves as Protestant but as a member of a particular Protestant denomination – Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and others. The study noted single-digit declines in nearly all of these denominations. 

The polls also show a startling trend. The number of people professing the Christian faith has declined from 83 percent to 72 percent since 2003. However, the number of Americans who say they have no religion has almost doubled to 21 percent.

The largest group to say they have no religious affiliation is 18 to 29-year-olds at 35 percent. In contrast, only 13 percent identified with no religion among those aged 50 or older.

This analysis is based on 174,485 interviews from ABC News and ABC News/Washington Post polls conducted by telephone from 2003 to 2017. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt Associates of Rockville, MD, or SSRS of Glen Mills, PA. See methodological details here

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