Facts & Figures

  • Religion and Identity
  • Losing Confidence in Each Other
  • Churches as Political Communities

Religion is Not an Important Source of Identity For Many Americans. Despite recent trends documenting an overall decline in religious belief, practice, and affiliation, most Americans still identify with a particular religious tradition. But surprisingly, a significant number of religious Americans say their religious beliefs or identity are not central to who they are. A majority of both White (67 percent) and Hispanic (60 percent) Catholics, white mainline Protestants (69 percent), and Jewish Americans (62 percent) say religion is not an important part of their identity. In contrast, three-quarters (75 percent) of Mormons and a majority of White evangelical Protestants (68 percent) and Black Protestants (62 percent) say their religious beliefs are an important part of their identity. Mormons stand out not only for their strong religious identities, but also for their unique attachment to their communities. This may help explain why so many members of the LDS Church say their religious identity is so important.

Losing Confidence in Each Other. So much research and commentary have focused on the decline of public trust in various institutions—the media, government, police, the justice system. But over the last decade, we have also seen an erosion of the confidence that Americans have in each other. According to the Pew Research Center, only 38 percent of Americans report they are confident that the “American people” will make wise political decisions. This represents a dramatic reversal from the past. In 1964, Gallup found that over three-quarters (77 percent) of Americans had trust and confidence in the wisdom of the American public when it came to making political decisions.

Churches as Political Communities. We have long known that churches and religious congregations are important sources of political information and influence. Now, a new report finds that many Americans perceive their congregation as sharing a mix of liberal and conservative beliefs. However, certain traditions are much more likely to have uniformly conservative congregations. Nearly half of White evangelical Protestants (47 percent) and Mormons (47 percent) say that the people they attend religious services with have mostly conservative political views. And this likely matters Attending a more uniformly conservative church offers a distinct political experience. White evangelical Protestants who attend services with a predominantly conservative congregation were significantly more likely to vote for Donald Trump than those who attend churches with more varied political views represented in the pews (85 percent vs. 69 percent). 

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