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Protestants losing majority, study suggests

 


Protestants losing majority, study suggests 

Aug. 2, 2004      

By Chris Herlinger *

NEW YORK (ENI)--A long-standing feature of U.S. religious life - a Protestant majority - may become a thing of the past, a new survey has concluded. 
 
“Since colonial times the United States has been a Protestant nation. But perhaps as early as this year (2004), the country will for the first time no longer have a Protestant majority,” the survey by the National Opinion Research Center, based at the University of Chicago, found. 
 
The number of those identifying themselves as Protestant, already declining in recent years, is expected to drop below 50 percent if present trends continue, the survey results were announced on July 20. A Protestant majority may have already vanished in the two years since the survey was conducted. 

Church groups covered by the term Protestant include Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Quaker denominations.
 
“The recent Protestant decline comes in large part from the loss of younger adherents and a related drop in the retention rate,” the survey stated. It added that a number of factors “indicate that the Protestant share of the population will continue to shrink and they will soon lose their majority position in American society.”
 
The survey of more than 2,650 respondents in 2002 found the number of those identifying themselves as Protestant dropped from 63 percent to 52 percent between 1993 and 2002.  At the same time, those saying they had no formal religious ties or identification increased from 9 percent to nearly 14 percent. 
 
Other factors cited in the study for the decline of Protestant identification included increased numbers of immigrants from non-Protestant countries and the fact that fewer people in the United States are being raised as Protestants.  
 
The so-called “retention rate” for Protestants has also been dropping. From 1973 up to 1993, nine out of 10 Protestants raised in a Protestant home remained Protestant; however, now less than
83 percent remain Protestant as adults. 
 
Although Protestants have been a majority in the United States, Roman Catholics have constituted the nation's biggest single denominational affiliation.  
 
The report can be found at
http://www.norc.uchicago.edu/issues/PROTSGO8.pdf .  
 
*Ecumenical News International distributed this article.

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