A new study reports that white Christians, long understood to be the primary shapers of American politics and culture, are rapidly losing their majority status across the country — even in traditionally conservative states.
Earlier this week, Jonathan Merritt of the Religion News Service dug into data from the American Values Atlas, a website unveiled late last year by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) that aggregates polling information on the political opinions, values, and religious affiliations of Americans. The wealth of data is a lot to sift through, but Merritt pointed to a striking revelation: white Christians, once the majority in virtually every major population area in America, are now a minority in 19 states.
For their surveys, PRRI defines “white Christian” as evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians who list their identity as “white, non-Hispanic.” (Interestingly, PRRI also includes white Mormons in this group, who are sometimes listed by sociologists as separate from the rest of Christianity due to their unique religious views and texts.)
Taken together, the PRRI data and Merritt’s analysis highlight several areas where white Christians are now the minority. Some states on this new list are fairly predictable, such as Hawaii, the only majority-minority state in America, and California, home to two of the top five most-diverse counties in the nation.
“Hawaii and California have the smallest white Christian populations of any state—20 percent and 25 percent, respectively,” Joanna Piacenza, an editor and communications associate at PRRI, noted in a blog post.
But the list of states also revealed some surprises, and included several conservative, historically-white, church-going “red states” such as Texas, Georgia, and Louisiana.