Fewer White Americans Identify As Evangelicals Than Mainline For The First Time In 15 Years, According To Poll

Frank Hoensch/Getty Images

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
Font Size:

Fewer white Protestant Christians consider themselves evangelicals than consider themselves Mainline for the first time in more than 15 years, according to a recent survey.

Only 14.5% of white Protestant Christians considered themselves evangelical in 2020, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found. That number was down from 23% in 2006. In contrast, 16.4% of white Protestants identified as mainline Protestants in 2020, up from 12.8% in 2016. It is the first time mainline Protestants outpaced evangelicals in the 15 years since PRRI began collecting data.

PRRI’s Census of American Religion surveyed 50,334 Americans in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., between Jan. 7, 2020 and Dec. 20, 2020. It had a margin of error of 0.5%.

The number of people unaffiliated with a religion, or “nones,” decreased for the second year in a row, according to the survey. The number of “nones” peaked at 25.5% of the U.S. population in 2018, and decreased to 23.3% in 2020. They are still the largest religious group measured by PRRI. (RELATED: POLL: American Church Membership Hits Record Lows)

PRRI CEO Robert Jones attempted to explain the shift to Religion News Service.

“Over the last two years in particular, white mainline Protestants seem to have absorbed at least some folks leaving white evangelical and other churches who may have otherwise landed in the religiously unaffiliated camp,” he said.

The percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics who are Christian dropped slightly between 2013 and 2020, according to the survey. Seventy-nine percent of African Americans identified as Christian in 2013, compared with 72% in 2020. 79% of Hispanics identified as Christian in 2013, compared with 76% in 2020.