Why More Americans Have No Religious Preference: Politics and Generations
The proportion of Americans who reported no religious preference doubled from 7 percent to 14 percent in the 1990s. This dramatic change may have resulted from demographic shifts, increasing religious skepticism, or the mix of politics and reli- gion that characterized the 1990s. One demographic factor is the succession of generations; the percentage of adults who had been raised with no religion in- creased from 2 percent to 6 percent. Delayed marriage and parenthood also contrib- uted to the increase. Religious skepticism proved to be an unlikely explanation: Most people with no preference hold conventional religious beliefs, despite their alien- ation from organized religion. In fact, these "unchurched believers" made up most of the increase in the "no religion" preferences. Politics, too, was a significant factor. The increase in "no religion" responses was confined to political moderates and liberals; the religious preferences of political conservatives did not change. This political part of the increase in "nones" can be viewed as a symbolic statement against the Religious Right.
Published in 2002.