Survey: 20% in U.S. say ‘no religion’

American religious affiliation is at its lowest point since tracking started in the 1930s, according to analysis of new survey data by researchers from the University of California-Berkeley and Duke University. One in five Americans surveyed in 2012 said they had no religious preference, more than double the number reported in 1990.

The survey asked, “What is your religious preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?”

Sociologists analyzed data on religious attitudes as part of the General Social Survey, a biannual poll conducted by NORC, a research institute at the University of Chicago.

Researchers found that 20% of a nationally representative group reported no preference. The figure was 8% in 1990 and 5% in 1972.

Study authors said they are careful to distinguish the survey category of “no [organized] religion” from “atheists,” who made up 3% of those interviewed last year. About 8% said they were raised with no religion.

Other results: 40% of self-identified liberals claimed “no religion” compared to 9% of conservatives; “no religion” among males was 24% and 16% among females; 21% of whites, 17% of African Americans and 14% of Latinos said “no religion.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation