End of Year 2023 – Pluralism

Measuring Demographic Changes and Monitoring the Health of Religion

This year, PRRI’s research provided additional context — and revealed paradoxes — about the decades-long trend of increasing religious disaffiliation in the United States.

In a new survey of more than 5,800 adults from all 50 states, PRRI found that church attendance and the importance of religion continue to decline among most Americans, with fewer than 2 in 10 Americans (16%) say religion is the most important thing in their lives (a finding reported by NPR’s Morning Edition). However, more than 8 in 10 Christian churchgoers (82%) say they are optimistic about the future of their church.

In a follow up to that report, PRRI published “Clergy and Congregations in a Time of Transformation,” a new survey of more than 3,000 clergy from the seven largest mainline Protestant denominations. This survey, which found that mainline Protestant clergy are more than twice as likely as white mainline Protestant churchgoers to identify with the Democratic party, was featured in AxiosReligion News Service, and Deseret News.

In an op-ed published by Religion News Service, PRRI CEO Melissa Deckman wrote about the survey’s findings, noting that most mainline Protestant clergy say their congregants are accepting of them (and their fellow churchgoers) in cases of political disagreement, making mainline Protestant churches potentially an important place to have healthy political conversations.

Earlier this year, PRRI also published the 2022 update to our groundbreaking 2020 PRRI Census of American Religion, the first study to provide reliable county-level religious affiliation data. This year’s update found the proportion of white Christians in the country has remained steady, at 42%, after a long decline from 72% in 1992; the proportions of Christians of color, non-Christian religious Americans, and religiously unaffiliated Americans all remained steady as well.

Today, both major political parties are majority Christian, but the total Christian proportion is much higher among Republicans (85%) than among Democrats (62%). While both parties have seen considerable shifts in the religious makeup of their constituencies over the past 16 years, Democrats have seen a more sweeping shift than Republicans, with the party going from 85% Christian in 2006 to 62% in 2022 (a 23-percentage-point change), while Republicans saw only a nine-percentage-point shift, from 94% to 85% Christian.

Pluralism Across the Headlines:


The Tennessee Expulsions Reveal the Core Divide in US Politics


Our Lawmakers Are More Religious Than We Are

Religion News Service:

U.S.-Born Latinos Now More Likely To Be ‘Nones’ Than Catholic

The Atlantic:

What Really Happens When Americans Stop Going to Church


What It Looks Like When the Far Right Takes Control of Local Government


Why Thousands of U.S. Congregations Are Leaving the United Methodist Church