The second-largest religion in each state

June 6, 2014

Christianity is by far the largest religion in the United States; more than three-quarters of Americans identify as Christians. A little more than half of us identify as Protestants, about 23 percent as Catholic and about 2 percent as Mormon.

Figuring out each state’s largest religion is easy; more than three-quarters of Americans identify as Christians. But, make it second-largest and the results get interesting.

In the Western U.S., Buddhists represent the largest non-Christian religious bloc in most states. In 20 states, mostly in the Midwest and South, Islam is the largest non-Christian faith tradition. And in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast, Judaism has the most followers after Christianity. Hindus come in second place in Arizona and Delaware, and there are more practitioners of the Baha’i faith in South Carolina than anyone else.

The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, which sponsors the U.S. Religious Census every 10 years, mapped out data on religious popularity. Knowing that Christianity was the leader in every state, ASARB highlighted each state’s second-most popular faith.

The data the ASARB release every 10 years are revealing: Adherents to any religious faith — that is, those who actually attend religious services — make up more than half the population in 28 states. Utah has the highest percentage of adherents, at 79 percent of the population, while just over a quarter of Mainers are adherents. North Dakota, Alabama and Louisiana are near the top of the list, while Oregon, Vermont, Alaska, Nevada and Washington sit near the bottom of the rankings.

This map is wrong

June 6, 2014

by Mark Silk

The other day the Washington Post posted an amazing map showing the second most populous religious tradition in each of the 50 states. Imagine, after Christianity it’s Baha’is in South Carolina, Hindus in Arizona and Delaware, and Muslims in Florida and Illinois.

The only trouble is that none of the above is true.

How do I know this? The map comes from the 2010 U.S. Religious Census taken by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. The Religious Census is based on self-reporting by religious bodies, a means of data collection that, depending on the body, ranges from highly accurate to wildly conjectural and self-serving. It is, in the aggregate, far less accurate than large random phone surveys that ask individuals to give their religious identity.

Thus, in 2008, Pew’s Religious Landscape Study showed more than twice as many Jews as “Other World Religions” (Sikhs, Jains, and others as well as Baha’is) in South Carolina. It showed more than four times as many Jews as Hindus in Delaware, and more than twice as many Jews and twice as many Buddhists as Hindus in Arizona. It showed over six times as many Jews as Muslims in Florida and over four times as many in Illinois.

And so on. Altogether, Jews come in second in at least half the states (not 15); Muslims, in at most a dozen (not 20), and Buddhists, in the remainder (throughout most of the West). The reason for the principal discrepancy (between Jews and Muslims) is that the U.S. Religious Census relies on reports of actual synagogue membership, and many self-identified Jews don’t belong to synagogues; while the reporting Muslim bodies provide estimates of mosque membership.

Islam is Largest Non-Christian Faith in 20 States

June 4, 2014

The second-largest religion in each state

by Reid Wilson

Christianity is by far the largest religion in the United States; more than three-quarters of Americans identify as Christians. A little more than half of us identify as Protestants, about 23 percent as Catholic and about  2 percent as Mormon.

But what about the rest of us? In the Western U.S., Buddhists represent the largest non-Christian religious bloc in most states. In 20 states, mostly in the Midwest and South, Islam is the largest non-Christian faith tradition. And in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast, Judaism has the most followers after Christianity. Hindus come in second place in Arizona and Delaware, and there are more practitioners of the Baha’i faith in South Carolina than anyone else.

All these data come from the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, which conducts a U.S. Religion Census every 10 years.

The data the ASARB release every 10 years are revealing: Adherents to any religious faith — that is, those who actually attend religious services — make up more than half the population in 28 states. Utah has the highest percentage of adherents, at 79 percent of the population, while just over a quarter of Mainers are adherents. North Dakota, Alabama and Louisiana are near the top of the list, while Oregon, Vermont, Alaska, Nevada and Washington sit near the bottom of the rankings.

Catholicism dominates the Northeast and the Southwest, and Southern Baptists have a strong foothold in the South. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dominates Utah and surrounding counties in Idaho, Wyoming and parts of Nevada. Lutheranism has a strong following in Minnesota and the Dakotas, while Methodists make their presence felt in parts of West Virginia, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.