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The Religion and Politics of New York: A State Portrait from PRRI’s American Values Atlas

Enduring Religious Diversity in New York

New York State has a distinctive religious identity boasting a considerable degree of religious diversity. Nearly one-third (32%) of the state’s residents identify as Catholic, making them a larger proportion of the state’s population than Catholics nationally. Fewer New Yorkers identify as white evangelical Protestant (5%) or white mainline Protestant (7%). Black Protestants account for one in ten (10%) New Yorkers, while Jewish Americans make up five percent of the state’s population. Notably, one-quarter (25%) of New Yorkers are religiously unaffiliated.

Since 2007, the religious composition of New York State has changed significantly. Notably, its Catholic population has fallen, and its religiously unaffiliated population has risen. Eighteen percent of New Yorkers are white Catholic today, compared to 26% of the state’s residents in 2007. One-quarter (25%) of New Yorkers eschew a religious identity today, compared to 17% eight years ago. Interestingly, the Hispanic Catholic population in New York remained stable over this period, with 10% identifying as such.




Generational Change in New York

The religious profile of New York State, like the U.S. overall, is facing substantial generational changes. A majority (55%) of New York seniors (age 65 and older) identify as white Christian, while only roughly one in ten (13%) young adults (age 18-29) in the state are white Christian. This is primarily driven by the shift in Catholic identity. Seniors are more than four times more likely to be white Catholic than young adults (30% vs. 7%, respectively). Conversely, young adults are more than three times more likely than seniors to be religiously unaffiliated (39% vs. 12%, respectively).


Religion and the Political Parties

Although Republicans in New York are still primarily made up of white Christians, they differ quite significantly from Republicans nationally in terms of their religious affiliation. New York Republicans are more than twice as likely to identify as white Catholic (34% vs. 16%, respectively) and substantially less likely to identify as white evangelical Protestant (13% vs. 35%, respectively) than Republicans in the U.S. overall.


New York Democrats, like Democrats nationally, include relatively few white Christians. The religious identity of New York Democrats largely mirrors that of Democrats at the national level. More than four in ten New York Democrats identify as non-white Christian, with black Protestants (18%) and Hispanic Catholics (14%) representing the largest share of this group. Similar numbers of New York Democrats and national Democrats are religiously unaffiliated (22% vs. 24%, respectively). Six percent of New York Democrats are Jewish, compared to only two percent nationally.