The number of white Christians in the U.S. is showing signs of stabilization after decades of decline, while the number of religiously unaffiliated adults continues to rise, according to a Public Religion Research Institute report published May 16.

In 1990, white Christians comprised 72% of the nation, falling to 54% by 2006 and to 42% by 2018. This number “has remained relatively constant” since that time, the report noted.

White evangelical Protestant affiliation declined from 23% in 2006 to 15.3% in 2017. The numbers were stable from 2017 to 2019, before falling to 13.6% by 2022.

White mainline (non-evangelical) Protestant affiliation went from 17.8% in 2006 to 12.8% in 2016, before rising 16.4% in 2020 and falling again to just under 14% in 2022. Similarly, white Catholic affiliation fell from 16% (2006) to 10.9% (2017 and 2018), before increasing to 13.2% in 2021 and then dipping slightly to 12.6% in 2022.

By comparison, the number of religiously unaffiliated adults increased from 16% in 2006 to 25.5% in 2018, before dropping to 23.23% in 2020 and then increasing to 26.8% in 2022.

PRRI noted that “Christians of color make up 25% of the country” and that around 6% of all adults affiliate with faith traditions other than Christianity. Both figures have been steady in recent years, the report said.

From 2013 to 2022, the number of adults “who say religion is the most important thing in their lives” fell four percentage points to 16%. Similarly, religious service attendance has declined from 56% of adults saying they attend “at least a few times a year” in 2013 to 54% in 2019 to 43% in 2022.

Among those who attend religious services at some point in a year, most do so at houses of faith with fewer than 500 members (31% less than 100 and 42% between 100 and 500). By comparison, 12% attend houses of faith with 500 to 1,000 members and 13% with more than 1,000.

Religious switching – in which a person changes their faith affiliation – is on the rise, increasing eight percentage points since 2021 to 24% of adults saying they now affiliate with a different faith tradition. Nearly one in five (16%) of all adults are considering a switch from their current faith affiliation.

“People who are currently members of other non-Christian religions (38%) or religiously unaffiliated (37%) are the most likely to say that they were previously a follower or practitioner of a different religious tradition, followed by about one in four other Protestants of color (28%), white evangelical Protestants (25%), and Hispanic Protestants (24%),” the report said.

“Among Americans who left a religious tradition, 37% say they were formerly Catholic, 24% were non-evangelical Christian or Protestant, 17% belonged to another Christian tradition, 13% were evangelical Christians, and 5% were members of non-Christian religions.”

When asked to provide reasons for their religious switching, the most common response was that the person no longer believed the religion’s teachings (56%).

By comparison, 30% said they disliked their faith tradition’s teachings about and/or treatment of LGBTQ+ persons and 29% said their family wasn’t religious in their upbringing, while 27% cited scandals involving religious leaders, 18% a traumatic personal event and 17% a congregation that became too political.

The full report is available here. The topline results, noting an overall margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points, are available here.

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