The close relationships of most U.S. adults tend to be very homogenous, according to a Public Religion Research Institute report published May 24.
Across all respondents, the average U.S. adult has 4.2 people (out of a possible total of seven) with whom they “discussed important matters” in the past six months. While this was up from 3.4 people in 2013, the homogeneity of the relationships was largely unchanged.
“Overall, three in ten Americans (30%) name one to three close contacts, while a majority (61%) name four or more people, including 29% who named the maximum of seven people,” the report said. The 2013 figures were 50%, 43% and 17%, respectively.
White respondents had the highest level of homogenous relationships, with 90% of important discussions taking place with white friends / family. This is down 1% from 2013.
For Black respondents, 78% of such conversations took place with Black friends / family (down from 83% in 2013), while for Hispanic respondents it was 63% (down from 64%) and for Asian American and Pacific Islander respondents, it was 65% (not polled in 2013) of these discussions.
This homogeneity was also seen in analyzing responses based on religious affiliation, with one exception.
Among Protestant respondents, 65% of their social network was also Protestant (down from 68% in 2013), while 59% of Catholic respondents’ relationships were with other Catholics (down from 72%) and 58% of non-Christian respondents were with other non-Christians (up from 38%).
Only religiously unaffiliated respondents had less than half (45%) of their social network also be religiously unaffiliated (up from 44% in 2013).
“The core social networks of different Protestant denominations vary in terms of their religious diversity. White evangelical Protestants have more religiously homogeneous networks than white mainline or Black Protestants,” the report said.
Analyzing the religious affiliation of the social networks all U.S. respondents, PRRI found that 20% were evangelical Protestants, 20% were Catholics, 19% were religiously unaffiliated, 17% were non-evangelical Protestants, 7% a non-Christian religious tradition and around 1% were another Christian tradition. The remaining roughly 16% were unclassified due to “don’t know” responses.
Regarding politics, Republicans (58%) and Democrats (59%) had nearly identical levels of close relationships only with those of their own party. Among Independents, 25% of their social network was composed of fellow Independents, while 19% were Democrats and 17% were Republicans.
Democrats had the highest percentage of religiously unaffiliated persons in their social networks at 23%, followed by Independents (21%) and Republicans (11%). Republicans had the highest percentage of evangelical Protestants (31%) in their network, followed by Independents (17%) and Democrats (16%).
Catholic and non-evangelical Protestants’ friendships were very similar across party affiliation, while Democrats (9%) and Independents (8%) were more likely than Republicans (5%) to have close non-Christian friendships.
Respondents were far more likely to discuss politics (41% do so) than religion (27% do so) with most / all of their social network. White evangelical Protestants were the most likely group to discuss both politics and religion (51% do so) with most / all of their close relationships.
The other religious groups surveyed ranged from 49% (white Catholics) to 30% (Hispanic Catholics) who discussed politics with most / all of their social network, while the range for religious discussions was 35% (Black Protestants) to 15% (white Mainline Protestants).
Among all respondents, a majority (55%) disagree with the idea “that God has granted America a special role in human history.” However, a majority of white evangelical Protestants (68%), Hispanic Protestants (68%), Black Protestants (58%) and other non-white Protestants (56%) affirm this special role for the U.S.
“The composition of Americans’ friendship networks, especially the presence of homogeneous networks, strongly impacts the views of respondents on questions about American identity, pluralism, Christian nationalism, and the changing demographics of the country,” the report said. “Generally speaking, among those who are the least supportive of racial and religious pluralism, the presence of just one person who does not share their attributes in terms of party, race, or religion has a significant impact on their views.