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The terms “unaffiliated” and “religious ‘nones’” are used interchangeably throughout this report.

This group includes self-identified atheists and agnostics as well as those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” The unaffiliated are generally less religiously observant than people who identify with a religion. In fact, many people who are unaffiliated with a religion believe in God, pray at least occasionally and think of themselves as spiritual people.

This decline is larger than the combined margins of sampling error in the twin surveys conducted seven years apart.

Using the margins of error to calculate a probable range of estimates, it appears that the number of Christian adults in the U. has shrunk by somewhere between 2.8 million and 7.8 million.

(See Appendix D.) The latest survey was conducted in English and Spanish among a nationally representative sample of 35,071 adults interviewed by telephone, on both cellphones and landlines, from June 4-Sept. Findings based on the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 0.6 percentage points. (See Appendix A for more information on how the survey was conducted, margins of error for subgroups analyzed in this report and additional details.) Even a very small margin of error, when applied to the hundreds of millions of people living in the United States, can yield a wide range of estimates for the size of particular faiths. In this study, respondents’ religious affiliation (also sometimes referred to as “religious identity”) is based on self-reports.

In 2007, there were an estimated 41 million mainline Protestant adults in the United States.By contrast, just 5% of people who got married before 1960 fit this profile. As a rising cohort of highly unaffiliated Millennials reaches adulthood, the median age of unaffiliated adults has dropped to 36, down from 38 in 2007 and far lower than the general (adult) population’s median age of 46. Surveys of the general public frequently include a few questions about religious affiliation, but they typically do not interview enough people, or ask sufficiently detailed questions, to be able to describe the country’s full religious landscape.By contrast, the median age of mainline Protestant adults in the new survey is 52 (up from 50 in 2007), and the median age of Catholic adults is 49 (up from 45 seven years earlier). census does not ask Americans about their religion, there are no official government statistics on the religious composition of the U. The Religious Landscape Studies were designed to fill the gap.As of 2014, there are roughly 36 million, a decline of 5 million – although, taking into account the surveys’ combined margins of error, the number of mainline Protestants may have fallen by as few as 3 million or as many as 7.3 million between 20.By contrast, the size of the historically black Protestant tradition – which includes the National Baptist Convention, the Church of God in Christ, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Progressive Baptist Convention and others – has remained relatively stable in recent years, at nearly 16 million adults. The new survey indicates that churches in the evangelical Protestant tradition – including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, Churches of Christ, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Presbyterian Church in America, other evangelical denominations and many nondenominational congregations – now have a total of about 62 million adult adherents.

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