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Just as we see changing demographics in America related to ethnicity (link to post on Asian and Hispanic Americans)—the American landscape with regard to religion and religious affiliation has also changed. But we still tend to think about religion in America as a matter of clumping together Catholics and Protestants and making broad generalizations about those two groups. Here are two recent surveys to remind you we just can’t do that anymore.

When it comes to attitudes, values, and beliefs—Protestants are pretty diverse

Gallup (another one of our favorites) published a report in September of 2017 saying that Protestants believe many different things—or, as they put it, “not all Protestants are created equal”. They begin with a somewhat shocking statement that “US Protestants’ views on moral issues such as abortion, gay and lesbian relations, and premarital sex differ sharply, depending on their denominational affiliation”. They identify “mainline Protestant denominations” as the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Lutherans and say these groups are “distinctly more liberal” on a number of moral issues than are the Baptists, Pentecostals, “and those identifying with nondenominational Protestant groups”. This pattern has been previously identified and remains intact.

They offer a graphic representation of various religious groups opinions on abortion, premarital sex, gay and lesbian relationships and the death penalty—some of which will likely make you tilt your head in wonder. This brief report from Gallup is well worth your time to read if you want to educate yourself on the diversity inherent in the umbrella label of Protestant.

Religious identity in the US is undergoing huge changes across many demographic categories

The next report we want to highlight for you is out of the PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute). They describe themselves as a “nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy”. They released a comprehensive report in September of 2017 that focuses on all the changes across the US in religious groups demographic descriptors—from ethnicity, age, evangelical groups, nonbelievers, education, and the reality that while White Christians have become a minority in the Democratic Party, White (and evangelical) Christians remain a reliable source of support for the GOP.

This is a much more difficult read than the Gallup Report and is filled with explanatory graphs and charts. The PRRI report talks about many of the demographic changes we have talked about here routinely—the gender, age, ethnicity, and education divides in religious affiliation but they pull it all together in a way that makes sense and helps you to understand the big picture as well as variations by individual states. This is a rich information source that will help you understand the religious climate in various parts of America and among different sub-groups of Americans.

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