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(See Appendix D.) The latest survey was conducted in English and Spanish among a nationally representative sample of 35,071 adults interviewed by telephone, on both cellphones and landlines, from June 4-Sept. Findings based on the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 0.6 percentage points. (See Appendix A for more information on how the survey was conducted, margins of error for subgroups analyzed in this report and additional details.) Even a very small margin of error, when applied to the hundreds of millions of people living in the United States, can yield a wide range of estimates for the size of particular faiths. In this study, respondents’ religious affiliation (also sometimes referred to as “religious identity”) is based on self-reports.
The survey is estimated to cover 97% of the non-institutionalized U. Nevertheless, the results of the second Religious Landscape Study indicate that Christians probably have lost ground, not only in their relative share of the U. Catholics, for instance, are defined as all respondents who say they are Catholic, regardless of their specific beliefs and whether or not they attend Mass regularly.
This group includes self-identified atheists and agnostics as well as those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” The unaffiliated are generally less religiously observant than people who identify with a religion. In fact, many people who are unaffiliated with a religion believe in God, pray at least occasionally and think of themselves as spiritual people.This decline is larger than the combined margins of sampling error in the twin surveys conducted seven years apart.Using the margins of error to calculate a probable range of estimates, it appears that the number of Christian adults in the U. has shrunk by somewhere between 2.8 million and 7.8 million.For more on how Protestant respondents were grouped into particular religious traditions, see Appendix B. adult population grew by about 18 million people, to nearly 245 million.In 2007, there were 227 million adults in the United States, and a little more than 78% of them – or roughly 178 million – identified as Christians. But the share of adults who identify as Christians fell to just under 71%, or approximately 173 million Americans, a net decline of about 5 million.