3 for Thursday: 3 Takeaways on Religion from the New PRRI Survey

SurveyThis week my students are turning in one of my favorite assignments, which is an interview project aimed at opening their eyes and ears to those who make up America’s religious and non-religious landscape. They are given a set of questions to ask and are required to stick to certain rules that keep proselytizing out and forces them to more accurately represent those they are interviewing. It is always an eye-opener for them and an interesting read for me.

Like those papers, I also love reading surveys on America’s religious landscape. Below are three interesting takeaways from the new joint survey from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institute.

1) America may not be as religiously conservative as you might think.

The new Public Religion Research Institute’s Economic Values Survey has a goldmine of information on the religious, political, and economic layout of Americans. According to PRRI, the survey looked at religion based on a “newly developed religious orientation scale that combines theological, economic and social outlooks” and arrives at some interesting numbers. For example, it “finds that 28% of Americans are religious conservatives, 38% are religious moderates, and 19% of Americans are religious progressives; additionally, 15% of Americans are nonreligious.”

2) Older Americans are more conservative.

According to the PRRI survey, “The mean age of the religious progressive population is 44 – just under the mean age in the general population of 47 – while the mean age of religious conservatives is 53. Twenty-three percent of Millennials (ages 18-33) are religious progressives, while 17 percent are religious conservatives. Among Millennials, there are also nearly as many nonreligious (22 percent) as religious progressives. Conversely, 12 percent of the Silent Generation (ages 66-88) are religious progressives, while 47 percent are religious conservatives. One-in-ten (10 percent) of the Silent Generation are nonreligious.”

3) Lastly, white Evangelicals are…wait for it… “dominated by social conservatives.”

Probably less surprising, but confirming public perceptions, are the numbers related to white evangelical Protestants. “Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants stand apart as the only major religious group dominated by social conservatives. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of white evangelical Protestants are social conservatives, 32% are social moderates and 5% are social liberals.” Similarly, “white evangelical Protestants constitute only 4% of religious progressives. By contrast, white evangelical Protestants constitute more than 4-in-10 (43%) religious conservatives.”

If you really enjoy religion surveys, this is the one for you. These three points above are only the tip of the PRRI survey iceberg. Know of another survey worth checking out, let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus.

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