religion in america poll


Is the U.S. a Christian Nation? Yes: Gregg Easterbrook  |  No: Diana Eck

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A recent ABCNews/Beliefnet poll posed the following question to a random sampling of Americans: "What if anything is your religion?" Here's what they had to say.

Religious Affiliation in America
Most of the 50 affiliations cited are Christian denominations, ranging from the Assemblies of God to the United Church of Christ. Added up they show that 53% of Americans are Protestants, 22% Catholics, and 8% other Christians, such as Latter-day Saints (Mormons) or Jehovah's Witnesses.


Protestant Groups
The largest group within the ranks of American Protestants is unaffiliated: Nineteen percent of Americans say they're Protestants but don't cite a specific denomination. They account for more than a third of all Protestants.

Another 15% of Americans identify themselves as Baptists or Southern Baptists, meaning this group accounts for nearly 3 in 10 Protestants. No other Protestant denomination comes close in size.

Baptists are especially prevalent among black Americans: Nearly half of blacks, 48%, say they're Baptists, making it far and away their No. 1 denomination (next are nondenominational, at 15% of blacks, and Methodist, at 8% of blacks). Among whites, 22% are Catholics, another 22% are nonaffiliated Protestants, and 13% are Baptists.

Blacks, who are overwhelmingly Christian, are also more likely than whites to have any religion: Just 3% of blacks say they have no religion, compared with 13% of whites. ("No religion" includes people who describe their religion as atheist or agnostic.)


Evangelicals
Thirty-seven percent of all Christians describe themselves as born-again or evangelical; that includes nearly half of all Protestants (47%), as well as a small share (14%) of Catholics.

Baptists again dominate: 62% of Baptists say they're evangelical Christians, compared with 46% of all other Protestant denominations combined, and 37% of nondenominational Protestants.

Evangelicalism soars particularly among blacks, and Southerners: Two-thirds of blacks describe themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians, double the share of whites who do so. And 55% of Christians in the South say they're born again, compared with 21% in the Northeast, 26% in the Midwest, and 31% in the West.

Lower-income Christians also are more apt to be evangelicals. Among those with household incomes under $35,000, 45 percent are evangelicals; among those with higher incomes this declines to 31 percent.

Income, Education
More broadly, Protestants tend to have lower incomes than Catholics: 49% of evangelical Protestants have incomes under $50,000, as do 43% of non-evangelical Protestants, compared with 36% of Catholics.

Income correlates with education. Thirty-six percent of Catholics are college graduates; that declines to 23% of Protestants, and 17% of Baptists.

Politics
There's an enormous political difference between evangelical and non-evangelical Protestants on some issues. One is abortion: 62% of evangelical Protestants say it should be illegal in all or most cases; by contrast, 65% of non-evangelical Protestants say abortion should be legal (as do 55% of Catholics). (See 7/2 analysis on abortion and 6/26 analysis on stem cell research.)

The difference narrows in terms of ideology more broadly. Forty-four percent of white evangelical Protestants say they're conservative on most political matters; that compares with 33% of white non-evangelical Protestants and white Catholics alike. Blacks are different in this regard; just 24% of blacks say they're conservative politically. And among people who have no religion, only 19% are conservatives.

There's even less difference between evangelical and non-evangelical white Protestants in political party identification: 40% of white evangelical Protestants identify themselves as Republicans, as do 34% of white non-evangelical Protestants. By contrast only 5% of blacks, and 11% of non-Christians, are Republicans.

This ABCNews/Beliefnet poll was conducted by telephone June 20-24, 2001, among a random national sample of 1,022 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Fieldwork by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.

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