A new Pew Research study on American religion finds that White Christians are no longer the majority, and those who are increasingly identify with the Republican party.
As the nation relentlessly diversifies, both in its racial composition and religious preferences, White Christians now represent just 46 percent of American adults, according to Pew data provided in response to a request from Next America. That’s down from a 55 percent majority as recently as 2007, and much higher figures through most of U.S. history.
Yet even as White Christians shrink in their overall numbers, they still account for nearly seven-in-10 Americans who identify with, or lean toward, the Republican Party, the Pew study found. White Christians, in fact, represent as large a share of the Republican coalition today as they did of American society overall in 1984, when Ronald Reagan won reelection. A clear majority of all White Christians across the United States now identify as Republican, Pew found.
In sharp contrast, the Pew data show, the Democratic coalition has evolved into a three-legged stool that divides almost evenly between White Christians, non-White Christians, and those from all races who identify either with a non-Christian faith or, increasingly, with no religious tradition at all. Most Americans who don’t identify with any religious faith—a rapidly growing group—now align with Democrats.
These diverging profiles create electoral challenges for each side. Republicans face the tension of balancing the morally conservative preferences of their religiously devout base with the deepening instinct toward cultural tolerance of a society that is growing more secular, particularly among the young.
Democrats must weigh the culturally liberal instincts of their now mostly secular wing of upscale Whites with the often more traditional inclinations of their African-American and Latino supporters, who are much more likely than White Democrats to identify with Christian faiths. In a landmark shift, fewer than half of White Democrats with a college degree now identify as Christians; that’s a much smaller percentage than among the party’s Blacks and Latinos.
Above all, the end of majority status for White Christians marks another milestone in America’s transformation into a kaleidoscope society with no single dominant group.
For 230 plus years this has been a country dominated by white Christians. That is no longer the case., whether the reason is a truly growing secular population, growth of religions outside Christianity, or a borderline White Christian nation with people who finally feel alright to mention they are not religious at all...or all three.
All three represent a threat to the GOP, and they know it.
In 1944, polls showed that White Christians accounted for more than eight-in-10 American adults, notes John C. Green, an expert on religion and politics and dean of the college of arts and sciences at the University of Akron. Surveys found that number declined only slightly, to just under eight-in-10, by 1964. Even in 1984, White Christians still accounted for just under seven-in-10 American adults. The annual merge of results from other national surveys conducted by Pew, though not directly comparable with the huge Religious Landscape poll, suggest that White Christians dipped below majority status sometime between 2012 and 2013. The latest figures placing White Christians at just 46 percent of the adult population confirm a trend, Green says, in which “the relative size of White Christians [has] fallen at an increasing rate over the post-W.W. II period.
Going from 68% to 46% in 30 years is a major change for America...like "first black president" and possibly "first woman president" level change.
Both parties will need to adapt. One party however has clearly decided to try to go backwards.