15 March 2013
A new poll released this week by the University of California, Berkeley, and Duke University has disclosed that more Americans than ever now consider themselves to be religiously unaffiliated.
The report, released on 12 March, indicates that the percentage of Americans who do not claim any religious affiliation has reached a new high of 20 percent, the highest recorded since US religious affiliation began to be tracked in the 1930s. This new number is more than double the percentage reported in 1990 when only 8 percent of Americans polled did not identify with an organized faith, and constitutes a steady and accelerating rise in the Unaffiliated since the 1930s when only 3 percent of Americans identified as such.
It is important to note that the research did not measure the percentage of Americans who self-identify as atheists or agnostics. Responses in the survey were to the question, “What is your religious preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?”
Other interesting aspects of the survey include a heavy skewing to the younger generation, with over one-third of 18-to-24 year olds claiming no religious affiliation, compared to only 7 percent of those 75 or older. Also some 40 percent of progressives and liberals claimed no religious affiliation, compared to only 9 percent of conservatives. And more men (24 percent) versus women (16 percent), and more whites (21 percent) compared to other minorities.
Some analysts attribute the trend to the heavy influence that Christian conservatives have had as of late in US politics, particularly in dominating the issues of the US Republican Party. They describe the rise as "blowback" to the mingling of church and state in the US.
In the 2012 US Presidential election, over 70% of the religiously unaffiliated voted for President Obama, a higher percentage than any other constituency. With this new report, it seems that the religiously affiliated will only become a more powerful and important constituency in future US elections.