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New Survey Shows ‘Religiously Unaffiliated’ Is Fastest Growing Religious Category

Of those leaving religions, nearly half do so because of religious teachings on LGBTQ people

WASHINGTON (March 27, 2024) — America’s religious landscape is undergoing transformational changes that could decide elections in 2024 and beyond, according to a new national survey released today by PRRI. The report takes a closer look at religious change in America, examining how well major faith traditions retain their members, as well as delving into reasons that people continue to disaffiliate from religion. It also includes a new analysis of how self-professed atheists and agnostics differ from Americans who say they are “nothing in particular.”

According to the survey, the only major religious category experiencing widespread growth today is the religiously unaffiliated.

  • In 2023, roughly three in four Americans identify with a faith tradition, including a majority of Americans (67%) who identify as Christian. Over the past decade, the proportion of the U.S. population who identifies as white Christian has declined from 46% in 2013 to 42% in 2023, while the proportion of Christians of color has remained steady (from 24% to 25%).
  • Among Christian groups, Catholics as a whole continue to lose more members than they gain, though the retention rate for Hispanic Catholics (68%) is somewhat higher than for white Catholics (62%), who have experienced the largest decline in affiliation of any religious group.
  • Around one-quarter of Americans (26%) identify as religiously unaffiliated in 2023, a 5 percentage point increase from 21% in 2013. Nearly one in five Americans (18%) left a religious tradition and became religiously unaffiliated, over one-third of whom were previously Catholic (35%) and mainline/non-evangelical Protestant (35%).

“After observing the growth of unaffiliated Americans for decades, our survey confirms that this trend is not slowing,” said Melissa Deckman, Ph.D., CEO of PRRI. “While most Americans are still religious, the ranks of the unaffiliated will continue to swell with both Americans who leave their religion — increasingly because of religious teachings about LGBTQ people — as well as those who are now being raised in religiously unaffiliated households.”

Religious disaffiliation and switching are at an all-time high, but the reasons for doing so have changed.

In 2016, PRRI published data that examined the rate of religious switching, referring to individuals who left their childhood faith tradition as adults. The analysis found the group that benefited most directly from religious switching in America was the religiously unaffiliated. In 2016, nearly one in five Americans (19%) switched from their childhood religious identity to become unaffiliated as adults, and relatively few Americans (3%) who were raised unaffiliated joined a religious tradition.

In 2023, we find that one in ten Americans (10%) report growing up without a religious identity, while 18% of Americans say they became unaffiliated after growing up in another religious tradition. Similar to 2016, very few Americans (3%) grew up without a religious identity and then joined a religion later in life.

Among all Americans in 2023, nearly two in ten (17%) describe themselves as “nothing in particular” similar to 2013 when 16% of Americans identified as such. By contrast, the numbers of both atheists and agnostics have doubled since 2013 (from 2% to 4% and from 2% to 5%, respectively).

Americans have grown less likely to attend church services over the past decade. In 2023, around one-quarter of Americans (24%) say they attend religious services, either virtually or in person, at least once a week, a 7 percentage point decline from 31% in 2013. Among Americans who attend religious services at least a few times a year, solid majorities report feeling closer to God (90%), experiencing religion in a community (79%), and instilling values in their children (79%) as very or somewhat important reasons for their personal attendance.

A top reason why religiously unaffiliated Americans report that they no longer identify with their childhood religion is because of the religion’s teachings about LGBTQ people (47%), up from 29% of unaffiliated Americans who left for that reason in 2016. There are strong party distinctions: The majority of religiously unaffiliated Democrats (61%) and 43% of independents cite this as a reason for leaving, compared with only 18% of unaffiliated Republicans.

Slightly more than three in ten religiously unaffiliated Americans say they no longer identify with their childhood religion due to clergy sexual abuse scandals (31%). Former Catholics are more likely than former non-Catholics to say they no longer identify with their childhood religion because of sexual abuse scandals (45% vs. 24%). The reason given by the most religiously unaffiliated Americans for leaving their faith tradition, however, is that they simply stopped believing in their religion’s teachings (67%). 

Most religiously unaffiliated Americans are not looking for a religious or spiritual home.

Just four in ten unaffiliated Americans describe themselves as spiritual. Across party lines, 39% of religiously unaffiliated Democrats, 38% of independents, and 35% of Republicans consider themselves to be spiritual. Compared with atheists and agnostics, religiously unaffiliated Americans who identify as nothing in particular (45%) are the most likely to consider themselves spiritual.

The vast majority of the religiously unaffiliated appear content to stay that way — only 9% of religiously unaffiliated Americans say the statement “I am looking for a religion that would be right for me” currently describes them very or somewhat well.

Republican Christian nationalists more likely to experience charismatic elements in church [1]  than Republicans who are not Christian nationalists.

PRRI asked Americans who attend religious services at least a few times a year whether they have experienced or witnessed numerous charismatic elements at a religious service in the past year. Among such American churchgoers, half say they have received a definitive answer to a specific prayer (50%), nearly four in ten say the “Spirit” has empowered them or someone else to do a specific task (39%), three in ten say they have received a direct revelation from God (29%) or witnessed divine healing of an injury or illness (27%), and roughly two in ten have seen people speaking in tongues (21%).

When adding those experiences together, we find that, on average, regular church attenders report experiencing or witnessing 1.7 charismatic elements while attending a religious service in the past year, with 3 in 10 Americans experiencing three or more events.[2]  Republican and Democratic churchgoers are equally likely to have experienced or witnessed at least three charismatic elements while attending religious services. However, just 19% of Republicans overall, which includes Republicans who rarely, if ever attend church, have experienced such charismatic elements in the past year. Republicans who qualify as Christian nationalism Adherents and Sympathizers are significantly more likely than those who qualify as Skeptics and Rejecters to have witnessed or experienced at least three charismatic events in the past year.


Prophetic and Prosperity theological beliefs are more common among Republicans and African Americans.

Many Americans hold theological beliefs rooted in prophecy as well as the prosperity gospel, both of which have ties to American Pentecostalism. Specifically, over four in ten Americans agree that “God reveals his plans for the future to humans as a prophecy” (45%). Roughly one-third of Americans agree with the statements that “God has given some people the power to heal others through prayer and the ‘laying on of hands’” (36%), “modern-day prophets continue to reveal God’s plan to humanity” (31%), and “God always rewards those who have good faith with good health, financial success, and fulfilling personal relationships” (31%).

Across all these theological beliefs measures, Black Americans tend to agree more with all these theological beliefs than white, Hispanic, AAPI, and other race Americans. From a partisan perspective, Republicans are more likely than independents and Democrats to hold such beliefs. Among Republicans, those with favorable views of Trump are more likely to hold such beliefs than those with unfavorable views of Trump.


The survey was designed and conducted by PRRI. The survey was carried out among a representative sample of 5,627 participants (age 18 and up) living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Among those, 5,303 are part of Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel and an additional 324 were recruited by Ipsos using opt-in survey panels to increase the sample sizes in smaller states. Interviews were conducted online between November 16 and December 7, 2023. The margin of error for the national survey is +/- 1.79 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence, including the design effect for the survey of 1.88. In addition to sampling error, surveys may also be subject to error or bias due to question wording, context, and order effects.

About PRRI

PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and politics.

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[1] Christian religious practices that emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts, such as faith healing and speaking in tongues, have their earliest roots in Pentecostal denominations, such as the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ, formed around the turn of the last century. In the late 1950s, these distinctive Pentecostal worship behaviors crossed over into some mainline Protestant denominations, Catholic churches, and Orthodox churches as part of a larger charismatic movement.

[2] About 13% of church attenders experienced three out of five charismatic events, 9% experienced four out of five charismatic events, and 9% experienced all five charismatic events.