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The Three Religious Traditions That Dominate the U.S.
Joanna Piacenza,

While the American religious landscape is becoming increasingly diverse, data from PRRI’s new American Values Atlas reveals that there are still three major religious traditions that dominate in most states: Catholics (22 percent), white evangelical Protestants (18 percent), and the religiously unaffiliated (22 percent).

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Catholicism is the number one religious tradition in 17 states.
  • White evangelical Protestants take first place in 15 states, a majority of which are southern states. In Ohio and Virginia, however, white evangelical Protestants are tied with the religiously unaffiliated as the largest group.
  • And the religiously unaffiliated is the number one religious group in 13 states, most of which are either in the Pacific Northwest or the Northeast.
  • So, what about the remaining three states? Utah is ruled by the Mormons, while North Dakota and Iowa have white mainline Protestants edging out white evangelical Protestants to lead the pack.

[Click to enlarge.]

Top Three Religions by State small

Here are a few other facts we learned from this new AVA data:

  • This trinity of religious traditions—that is, Catholic, white evangelical Protestant, and the unaffiliated—constitute the top three religious traditions in 11 states: Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.
  • There are only five states where the unaffiliated is NOT one of the top three religious traditions: Alabama, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
  • Black Protestants only show up in the top three of eight states, none of which have them as the number one religious tradition.
  • Although white mainline Protestants are the dominant religious tradition in only two states (Iowa and North Dakota), they are the second largest religious tradition in five states: South Dakota (27 percent), Minnesota (24 percent), Nebraska (22 percent), Tennessee (17 percent), and Arkansas (14 percent), and they rank third in 24 states.
  • Utah has the largest percentage of one single religious tradition—56 percent—and is the only state that has a majority of one single tradition. Rhode Island comes in second with 44 percent of its population identifying as Catholic.
  • There are four states where the dominant religious tradition claims at least 4-in-10 residents: Rhode Island is 44 percent Catholic, Tennessee is 43 percent white evangelical Protestant, Utah is 56 percent Mormon, and West Virginia is 40 percent white evangelical Protestant.

For more on the AVA, see where your state stands on same-sex marriage and immigration reform, see our handy reference guides on immigration reform, views of immigrantssame-sex marriage, and availability and legality of abortion, and explore it yourself.