Pew Research Shows
Shift in US Religious Attitudes
October 10, 2012
A new study shows a significant increase in the number of Americans who
say they are not affiliated with a particular religion.
The findings of the Pew Research Center indicate nearly 20 percent of
all Americans now consider themselves agnostics, atheists or "nothing in
particular" when it comes to religious affiliation, a rise from 15
percent five years ago.
Researchers say the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans is even
higher among younger adults, accounting for 32 percent of those under
the age of 30.
The study, released Tuesday, could have implications for the
presidential race between U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican
challenger Mitt Romney, as their campaigns seek to strengthen their
appeal to voters ahead of the November election.
The study found almost a quarter of registered voters who identify
themselves either as Democrats or Democratic "leaning" say they are
religiously unaffiliated, a rise from 17 percent five years ago.
Republican and Republican "leaning" voters, the percentage of those
describing themselves as religiously unaffiliated grew from 9 to 11
percent over the past five years.
Researchers say the factors behind the increased number of religiously
unaffiliated people in America, historically a deeply religious nation,
include "generational replacement" — the gradual replacement of older
generations by newer ones — and a rise in the number of Americans raised
without a religious affiliation.
In spite of the increase, researchers say not all of the religiously
unaffiliated are strictly secular, with many saying they do believe in
God, pray daily or consider themselves "spiritual but not religious."
The findings are based on several broad surveys conducted by Pew and the
PBS television series "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly."