Poll: Most Americans Say They're Christian

Ask Americans their religion and you'll get an earful — 50 individual answers in an ABCNEWS/Beliefnet poll, ranging from agnostics to Zen Buddhists. The vast majority, though, have something in common: Jesus Christ.

Eighty-three percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Most of the rest, 13 percent, have no religion. That leaves just 4 percent as adherents of all non-Christian religions combined — Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and a smattering of individual mentions.

That's quite different from the world at large: Fifty-two percent of the world's population is non-Christian, compared to 4 percent in the United States; and one-third is Christian, compared to 83 percent in the United States. (These are rough comparisons, because the world figures, reported by the Encyclopedia Britannica, are for the full population, while the U.S. figures are among adults only.)

This poll used an open-ended question to gauge religious affiliation: "What if anything is your religion?" Most of the 50 affiliations cited are Christian denominations, ranging from the Assembly of God to the United Church of Christ. Added up they show that 53 percent of Americans are Protestants, 22 percent Catholics and 8 percent other Christians, such as Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses.

Protestant Groups

The largest group within the ranks of American Protestants is unaffiliated: Nineteen percent of Americans say they're Protestants, but don't cite a specific denomination. They account for more than a third of all Protestants.

Another 15 percent of Americans identify themselves as Baptists or Southern Baptists, meaning this group accounts for nearly three in 10 Protestants. No other Protestant denomination comes close in size.

Baptists are especially prevalent among black Americans: Nearly half of blacks, 48 percent, say they're Baptists, making it far and away their No. 1 denomination (next are nondenominational, at 15 percent of blacks, and Methodist, at 8 percent of blacks). Among whites, 22 percent are Catholics, another 22 percent are nonaffiliated Protestants and 13 percent are Baptists.

Blacks, who are overwhelmingly Christian, are also more likely than whites to have any religion: Just 3 percent of blacks say they have no religion, compared to 13 percent of whites. ("No religion" includes people who describe their religion as atheist or agnostic.)

Other Denominations

Six percent of Americans say they're Methodists (including African Methodists and United Methodists); 5 percent, Lutherans. No other Protestant denomination was named by more than 2 percent of respondents.

Evangelicals

Thirty-seven percent of all Christians describe themselves as born-again or evangelical; that includes nearly half of all Protestants (47 percent), as well as a small share (14 percent) of Catholics.

Baptists again dominate: Sixty-two percent of Baptists say they're evangelical Christians, compared to 46 percent of all other Protestant denominations combined, and 37 percent of nondenominational Protestants.

Evangelism soars particularly among blacks, and southerners: Two-thirds of blacks describe themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians, double the share of whites who do so. And 55 percent of Christians in the South say they're born-again, compared to 21 percent in the Northeast, 26 percent in the Midwest and 31 percent in the West.

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