Protestants may soon account for less than half of the United States population for the first time since the country's founding, according to a survey released by the University of Chicago yesterday, reported Reuters.
From 1993 to 2002, Protestant membership in the U.S. fell from 63 percent of the population to 52 percent, and researchers predict that it will continue to drop to below half in the next two years.
While the number of Protestants has decreased and the number of people claiming no religion has increased, from nine to 14 percent, the number of Catholics in 2002 remained fairly steady at about 25 percent.
The survey found that Protestants are in decline because younger adherents are dropping out. Also, some Protestants have now decided to identify themselves simply as "Christian", explains the report. However, researchers expect that immigration will likely keep Catholic rates stable.
People who belong to other religions – including Eastern faiths and Islam, Orthodox Christians, interdenominational Christians and native-American faiths – increased from 3 percent to 7 percent. The number of Jewish people remained stable at slightly under two percent.
The study defined Protestants all post-Reformation Christian churches, such as Baptist, Methodist and Episcopalian, including Mormons and New Age Spirituality adherents.
The survey has been tracking societal trends for 32 years. It included 2,765 people and has a margin of error of plus or minus two percent for the 2002 statistics.