White Christian men have long been the primary movers and shakers in American politics and culture. All 43 U.S. presidents, with the exception of Barack Obama–who was born to a white mother and a black father–were white Christians.
However, the American landscape is changing. White Christians, once the majority virtually everywhere in the United States, are now a minority in 19 states, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.
STATES WHERE WHITE CHRISTIANS ARE NO LONGER THE MAJORITY (Percentages of white Christians in each state)
1. Hawaii – 20%
2. California – 25%
3. New Mexico – 33%
4. Nevada – 36%
5. New York – 37%
6. Alaska – 37%
7. Texas – 37%
8. Maryland – 38%
9. Arizona – 38%
10. Washington – 42%
11. Florida – 42%
12. Oregon – 43%
13. New Jersey – 43%
14. Colorado – 44%
15. Illinois – 46%
16. Georgia – 46%
17. Vermont – 47%
18. Delaware – 48%
19. Louisiana – 49%
The PRRI’s survey defines “white Christian” as evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians who describe themselves as “white, non-Hispanic.”
The survey also found that the United States is no longer a majority Protestant nation. In 2014, only 47 percent of Americans identified as Protestant.
“There’s more people who were raised Protestant [who are] now unaffiliated, and you combine that with the ethnic shifts, and that gives you this decline in Protestants across the country,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the PRRI.
Those ethnic shifts include the rising number of non-white Catholics; American Catholicism is becoming increasingly Hispanic, and evangelicals are seeing more non-white churchgoers.
While 76 percent of Americans continue to identify with the Christian faith, there is a growing population of non-Christian and non-Jewish religions. Five percent of the country is either Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or some other religion.
“Going toward the future, the kind of 1950s way of thinking about America as Protestant, Catholic and Jewish is really no longer going to be sufficient,” said Jones. “It really is a much more complex landscape.”
Adding to that complexity is the rising number of Americans who describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated. There’s a so-called “unchurch belt” stretching from up in the Pacific Northwest and into Alaska, Oregon, and Washington State. There are so many people don’t identify with a particular religion that “religiously unaffiliated” is the largest religious group in 13 states, including Vermont and New Hampshire.
It is this rising number of religiously unaffiliated Americans that can be expected to flex its muscle in the coming years. While much of the the political debate in the 1980s and 1990s involved the religious versus the non-religious, that might be about to change.
“I think we’re going to see the fault lines shifting a little bit differently so that we have the religiously unaffiliated really weighing in,” said Jones. “This very large group of religiously unaffiliated Americans, I think, has the real potential to change the equation in terms of politics, in terms of culture, and I think we’re just beginning to see that impact.”
According to PRRI, it derived its information from 50,000 annual telephone interviews. The findings are available in an online tool The American Values Atlas.