Poll: The Rapid Decline of US Evangelicals

David Gamble
Science and Critical Thinking
6 min readJul 12, 2021

PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute), released the details of a major census of religion in the US on July 8th. There is a great deal of detail contained within it. This is perhaps to be expected because it has been based upon interviews conducted with more than 500,000 respondents between 2013 and 2020. Here I’m I’m going to focus down upon one demographic — the evangelicals.

Key Highlight — Steep Evangelical Decline

As recently as 2006, white evangelicals were 23% of the US population. This new poll reveals that they have dropped by an astonishing amount and are down to just 14% in 2020.

Let me spell that out.

Just 15 years ago almost 10% of the entire US population, that’s roughly 33 million evangelicals, have today walked away from that specific religious brand.

Here is a chart that illustrates this …

Since 2006, white evangelical Protestants have experienced the most precipitous drop in affiliation, shrinking from 23% of Americans in 2006 to 14% in 2020. That proportion has generally held steady since 2017 (15% in 2017, 2018, and 2019).

Where have all these Evangelicals Gone?

It’s complicated, and multiple factors are most probably in play here. Polls just report numbers, they don’t explain why. To fill that gap here is some speculation from me.

For the above chart one big ongoing trend is that as the evangelicals have declined, the number of nones (not religiously affiliated) has increased. What I suspect may be in play there is that as the older more religious generations pass away, they are being replaced by an upcoming far less religious generation. This is the generation that has grown up with the internet and so have not been totally isolated inside religious bubbles. They have been exposed to other ideas that challenged traditional beliefs and so doubt took hold.

Beyond those big curves, there is also an interesting smaller trend. Notice how over the last couple of years an uptick of…

David Gamble
Science and Critical Thinking

Blogger and writer with a keen interest in science, skepticism, critical thinking, and many other weird and whacky topics.