Less than half of the U.S. population identifies as white Christians, and political parties draw hard lines for and against religion, according to a poll released Wednesday.
The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll showed that only 43 percent of 101,000 Americans questioned in 2016 identified as both white and Christian, down from 81 percent in 1976. The poll shows two major factors contributing to the decline in white Christians: increased migrant communities changing the ethnic landscape of the church, particularly the Catholic Church, and an increase in people that claim no affiliation to any religion.
“So often, white evangelicals have been pointing in judgment to white mainline groups, saying when you have liberal theology you decline,” Robert Jones, chief executive of PRRI, told the Associated Press. “I think this data really does challenge that interpretation of linking theological conservatism and growth.”
The poll also showed a dramatic decline in religious membership among the Democratic Party. Forty percent of Democrats polled said they are unaffiliated with any religion, while white Christians account for only 29 percent of the party. Ten years ago, 50 percent of the Democratic Party identified as white Christians, indicating that culture within and policies adopted by the party may be driving religious members away.
In contrast, 73 percent of the GOP identifies as white Christians, with 35 percent labeling themselves as white evangelical Protestants.
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