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ARIS 2013 Team

Principal Investigators

ISSSC Research Team
Trinity College Student '16

Trinity College Student '16

Trinity College Student '16

Greenberg Center Research Team

Research Report: Secular Students Today

The Rising Secular Generation

Barry A. Kosmin at the SANE Conference, October 18, 2013

Watch the full presentation

ARIS Student Survey Press Release 2013

ARIS Student Survey Press Release 2013

An Interview with the Guy Who Named the ‘Nones’

An Interview with the Guy Who Named the ‘Nones’

Press: Generation X Becoming Less Christian, Less Republican; Catholic and Baptist Losses feed Religious Polarization

HARTFORD, CT, May 31, 2012 – Members of Generation X – the 35 million Americans born between 1965 and 1972 – have become less Christian and less Republican over the course of their adult lives, a new study by Trinity College shows. Striking declines in the number of Catholics and Baptists combined with sharp increases in the number of non-denominational Christians and those claiming no religious affiliation (Nones) show increased religious polarization in this generation, even as its political re-orientation towards the Democratic Party has been accompanied by modest growth in the number of political independents.

Born in the wake of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the Gen X-ers constituted the most Catholic generational cohort in American history, with fully one-third of them identifying as Catholics in 1990. But two decades later, approximately one out of five had fallen away from the faith. It was only thanks to the addition of approximately one million Latino Catholics their own age that the proportion of Gen X Catholics decreased to only 26 percent of the cohort.

In addition, shifts in religious identification since 1990 have resulted in the ranks of the Nones swelling by 67 percent (2.2 million persons) and those in the conservative, non-denominational Generic Christian tradition growing by 51 percent (1.8 million). Put another way, the percentage of self-proclaimed Nones increased from 11 percent to 16 percent of this cohort between 1990 and 2008. This increase is surprising since Americans have historically increased their religious identification between early adulthood and their mid-40s, as theymarry, have children, and become settled in their communities.

Those were among the key findings of a new report by Barry Kosmin and Juhem Navarro-Rivera at Trinity College, who looked at the religious and political affiliations of Generation X, whose members reached adulthood during an era when American society was much influenced by the Christian Right. The findings are important as predictorsabout the future of American society, particularly the relationship betweenreligion and politics, issues that have been front and center during this year’s presidential campaign.

The data are derived from the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), a large, nationally representative sample of adults in the Continental United States. The surveys were conducted in 1990 and again in 2008, highlighting trends over an 18-year period. The 1990 ARIS involved 113,723 respondents, including 16,959 adultsbetween the ages of 18 and 25 years. The 2008 ARIS had an overall sample size of 54,461, with 6,407 respondents between the ages of 36 and 43 years.

“Generation X has shifted its allegiances to a surprising degree” said Barry Kosmin, director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC) at Trinity. “Many in this generation of Americans have abandoned their religious roots and political affiliations in adulthood. Historically and sociologically, that’s an unexpected development.”

In terms of political affiliation, Gen X-ers leaned Republican by 5 percentage points in 1990 (34 percent to 29 percent Democratic), but in 2008 they favored the Democratic Party by 7 percentage points (33 percent to 26 percent Republican) This partisan shiftaway from the GOP was even more pronounced among Generation X Nones. In 1990, Nones were evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, but by 2008, Nones leaned Democratic by more than 2 to 1 (33 percent to 15 percent).

“The fact that identification with religion declined among Generation X as they aged suggests that the secularization of Americans is not just about young people from today’s Millennial Generation abandoning religion because it has become too politicized,” said Juhem Navarro-Rivera, a research fellow at the ISSSC. “It is also an ongoing and wider process that involves older generations in American society, as exemplified by Generation X.”

The report’s religion data are based on responses to the question: What is your religion, if any? And the political party data are based on responses to the question: Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as a Republican, Democrat or Independent?

For more information about the ARIS series methodology, please visit: http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/about-aris/metholodogy.

For more information contact Barry Kosmin at 860-297-2388 or barry.kosmin@trincoll.edu; or Juhem Navarro-Rivera at 860-297-4227 or juhem.navarrorivera@trincoll.edu.


To download a copy of – The Transformation of Generation X: Shifts in Religious and Political Self-Identification, 1990-2008 please visit:


Mormon Study Shows Regional Concentration and Growing Republicanism

Mormon Study Shows Regional Concentration and Growing Republicanism

Analysis based on Trinity College’s American Religious Identification Survey

HARTFORD, CT, December 14, 2011 – Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons as they are popularly known, are twice as likely to favor the Republican Party than American adults who belong to other faiths and those who don’t identify with any religion, according to a new study based on the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) by Trinity College researchers.

The study shows that 59 percent of Mormons say they are Republicans compared to 27 percent of non-Mormons. In addition, a higher percentage of Mormons are registered voters (90 percent in Utah and 84 percent overall) as opposed to 78 percent of non-Mormon adults.

The findings suggest that the Mormon community has an above average interest in politics, concludes authors Ryan Cragun, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Tampa and a research associate of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society & Culture (ISSSC) at Trinity who is also currently secretary of the Mormon Social Science Association, and Rick Phillips, associate professor of sociology at the University of North Florida and a former president of the Mormon Social Science Association. Their study is called “The Mormon Population of the United States 1990-2008: An Analysis of Socio-Demographic Trends and Regional Differences.”  For a copy of the report, please visit: http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/files/2011/12/Mormons2008.pdf.

Their portrait of the U.S. Mormon community is based on data provided by ARIS 2008, the third in a series of large, nationally representative surveys of U.S. adults in the 48 contiguous states conducted by Trinity Professors Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar. Employing the same research methodology as surveys in 1990 and 2001, ARIS 2008 questioned 54,461 adults in English and Spanish. With a margin of error of less than 0.5 percent, it provides an analysis of how contemporary Americans identify themselves religiously, and how that self-identification has changed over the past generation.

“This is a timely academic study that provides hard evidence on the social profile of a community which is unfamiliar to Americans living outside the Rocky Mountain region,” said Barry Kosmin. “As we approach the 2012 election, Mormons have never been as prominent in American public life as they are today with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney contending for the Republican Party presidential nomination and Harry Reid of Nevada leading the Senate on the Democratic Party side. We hope this new report based on the unique American Religious Identification Survey series will help people to better understand the contemporary Mormon population and how it is evolving over time.”

Although the Mormon Church was founded 180 years ago, wrote Cragun and Phillips, “Mormonism is poorly understood and poorly regarded by the general public.”

Some political experts ascribe the failure of Romney and Huntsman to gain traction among Republicans as being related to their religious affiliation. According to national polling data, Mormons are viewed less favorably by the American population than any other major Christian group and barely edge out Muslims. In their report, the authors argue that despite its putative size and rapid growth, Mormonism in America still retains some of the characteristics of the regional subculture founded in Utah by separatist pioneers in the second half of the 19th century.

“This ‘guilt by association’ with the exoticism and esotericism of early Mormonism continues to this day,” wrote Cragun and Phillips, “and Mormons in Utah and the Rocky Mountain states, where they are both heavily concentrated and a large proportion of the local population, look different from their coreligionists in other parts of the country in several noteworthy ways.”

There is a debate over the number of Mormons in the U.S. today. The church counts anyone who has been baptized and confirmed as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, including adults who no longer consider themselves to be members. ARIS

takes into account only those who presently self-identify with the church. Thus, at the end of 2008, the church claimed 5.97 million members or 2 percent of the U.S. population, while ARIS believes the more accurate figure is 3.2 million or 1.4 percent of the population, a figure unchanged from 1990. (The ARIS numbers are smaller, in part, because it only surveyed adults and did not count children.)

Mormons tend to be concentrated in the Rocky Mountain states, particularly in Utah. At the end of 2008, the church claimed 1.8 million members or 68 percent of Utah’s citizenry. The ARIS data estimate that the Mormon “market share” in Utah fell from 69 percent in 1990 to 57 percent in 2008. Nevertheless, Mormons are the only religious group in the U.S. today that forms a numerical majority of any one state’s population.

The regional concentration is such that 53 percent of Mormons live in the Rocky Mountain states and only 19 percent reside east of the Mississippi River. “This means Mormons are the most geographically isolated and uniquely distributed religious group in the U.S.,” wrote Cragun and Phillips.

Among the report’s other findings:

  • Changes in the ratio of male to female church members in Utah confirm the assertion that young men in the Mormon Culture Region are defecting at substantially higher rates than young women, creating a growing gender imbalance and a surplus of Mormon women. In Utah, self-identified Mormon women outnumber men by a ratio of 3:2.
  • As a result, Mormon women are increasingly likely to marry non-Mormon men. Children born to mixed marriages are less likely to remain in the church.
  • Although Mormon women are no less likely to have college degrees than other women, Mormon women are more likely to be housewives and less likely to work full-time than other American women.
  • American Mormons are remarkable for their racial homogeneity. Indeed, until 1978, men of African descent were denied full participation in the church – a policy that continues to haunt church leaders to this day, according to the authors. In 2008, 91 percent of Mormons identified themselves as white; 3 percent as black; 3 percent as Hispanic; and 3 percent as other. Utah is even more homogeneous, with 95 percent of that state’s Mormon population describing themselves as white.
  • Mormonism is slowly getting more diverse, with Hispanics accounting for most of the change. Church missions have also been established in Africa, as well as in Latin American nations.
  • The data show that Mormons are generally better educated than non-Mormons. College graduates comprise 28 percent of all Mormons and 31 percent of Mormon adults in Utah.
  • Mormons in Utah had significantly larger households in 2008 than Mormons elsewhere – 4.2 persons per household vs. 3.7 persons per household, respectively — suggesting that the traditional norm of large families endures in Utah.
  • The period 1990 to 2008 saw rising prosperity, with above-average increases in household income among Mormons in Utah. Although differences between Mormon and non-Mormon households outside Utah are negligible in both the 1990 and 2008 ARIS, Mormon households in Utah seem to have increased their incomes relative to non-Mormon households.

For more information, please contact: Ryan Cragun at ryantcragun@gmail.com or               at 813-466-4110; or Barry Kosmin at barry.kosmin@trincoll.edu or at 860-297-2388. For more information about the ARIS 2008 study, please visit: http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/

New Video: The Secularization of U.S. Latinos

In this video Juhem Navarro-Rivera (Research Fellow, Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society & Culture) explains the rise of Nones in the Latino community in the United States between 1990 & 2008. The proportion of Latino Nones doubled from 6% to 12% and the number quadrupled from just under 1 Million to almost 4 Million in 18 years.

ARIS Presentation: Religion and the Intelligentsia

by Barry A. Kosmin, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut

Delivered at SSSR Annual Conference 2010, Baltimore, MD
(scroll for full essay)

Religion and the Intelligentsia

The relationship between educational attainment and religious identity and behavior is contested in the academic literature.Both education and religion have been identified as independent variables.However, in general society, exposure to
higher education is commonly regarded as a key explanatory factor in the decline or shift of an individual’s religious loyalty and belief.As a result it is common for some conservative religious groups to discourage their adherents from seeking higher education. At the other extreme, secularists have long believed that more education produces more rationality and so liberates people from “superstition.”

Over the past two decades the religious and demographic composition of Americans with post-graduate university degrees – master’s degrees, doctorates and professional degrees – has changed even as the overall size of the group has
grown.This paper will examine, using the large samples of ARIS time series, the changing religious profile and
beliefs of the intelligentsia. The case for looking at this segment is that there has been “grade inflation” across the nation.BAs are now so commonplace that they no longer constitute an elite, especially since the population with bachelor
degrees is now so large.

The reason is that education has contrary associations with religious belief and practice.The findings contradict earlier studies that consistently find that people with more education are less likely than others to believe in God (Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, 1997).On the other hand, it is frequently observed that religious participation (e.g. regular church attendance) in post-industrial societies is positively associated with both education and social class (Norris and Inglehart, 2004).

The question is why the association between education and religious affiliation -and possibly belief in God – is changing.Our hypothesis is as follows.When access to advanced education is restricted to very bright, well read, high academic achievers, post-graduates are disproportionately likely to report that they have no religion and do not believe in God, for the reasons mentioned above.As access to advanced education is broadened, however, not only the social but also the intellectual distinctiveness of graduates fades.People in advanced education are more like everyone else.

Our explanation rests on the combined effects of the expansion of access to advanced education and the drift away from religious adherence.In earlier times almost everyone had a religion, at least nominally.The small group of people who were overtly unreligious were mostly members of the middle class intelligentsia, hence the connection between educational qualifications and no religion.Many young people now do not have a religion, and at the same time a substantial proportion of this generation is entering advanced education.As a result the set of people who have no religion is expanding beyond the subpopulation that is highly educated, and that subpopulation is in any case losing its distinctiveness.

People with advanced education are disproportionately represented among both non-believers and churchgoers.We have explained how the changing distribution of religious types among elites and the general population produced this shift.

In the mid-twentieth century a majority of graduates attended church, and hence they (or more accurately their children and grandchildren, who were also very likely to have degrees) had further to travel before disclaiming even nominal affiliation.As a result, religious identity among the highly educated part of the population has not decayed more quickly than for those with fewer qualifications.The previously positive relationship between education and high school drop-outs has been reversed.It would be a mistake to infer, however, that a continued expansion of advanced education will produce a religious revival: both the post-graduate and the total populations are becoming slowly less religious over time.


The social composition of the elite has tended to normalize as it has expanded since 1990.

Change in the religious profile reflects general national trends i.e. rise of Nones. Catholics are a
constantproportion so Nones have grownat expense of Mainline & Other Christians.

Religious involvement is typical of the national pattern but with increased public religiosity-membership of congregations and worship attendance. Evidence shows they “do” their religion more than most Americans – more belonging & behavior & only slightly less belief.

The worldviews do not exhibit unique patterns.Theologically there are slightly more agnostics and fewer don’t knows.

The only sign of greater secularization is more support for the theory of human evolution but there is no evidence of a dominant “atheistic naturalism”.

The elite is not a unique population today on most standard measures of religious belonging, belief and behavior.

This population as whole is a “people’s elite” with few differences between them and the mass of the public except in terms of status, power and income.

Southernization and feminization has normalized the population.

The recent proliferation of religious and sectarian colleges may have offset some secularization trends.

The elite population is diverse rather than cohesive. This suggests the need to segment it by disciplinary field if we are to see real effects of some types of advanced education.

The most researched group within the elite, the university academics, are an unrepresentative sub-class within the elite.

Little evidence the majority of elite are in the Enlightenment tradition of Jefferson & Franklin.

Advanced education in U.S. does not seem to produce much skepticism or critical thinking

Some support for Andrew Gelman’s (2009) which documents the stark partisan division within the American
upper class, which I think helps us understand what’s really going on. Very roughly, churchgoing non-coastal rich people are Republicans, while the more secular coastal rich are Democrats.



Albrecht, Stan L. and Tim B. Heaton.Secularization,Higher Education, and Religiosity, Review of Religious Research, Vol. 26, No. 1, Special Issue Co-Sponsored by the Society for the Sociological Study of Mormon Life and the Family and Demographic Institute of Brigham Young University (Sep., 1984), pp. 43-58

Argyle, Michael and Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi. The Psychology of Religious Behaviour, Belief and Experience,London & New York, Routledge, 1997.

Bainbridge, William Sims and Laurie Russell Hatch. Women’s Access to Elite Careers: In Search of a Religion Effect,Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Sep., 1982), pp. 242-254

Davidson, James D.Religion among America’s Elite: Persistence and Change in the Protestant Establishment. Sociology of Religion, Vol. 55, No. 4, (Winter, 1994), pp. 419-440

Ecklund, Howard Elaine, Jerry Z. Park and Phil Todd Veliz.Secularization and Religious Change among Elite Scientists.Social Forces, Volume 86, Number 4, June 2008.

Gelman, Andrew. Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State, Princeton University Press, 2009

Taylor, Humphrey.The Religious and Other Beliefs of Americans 2003.The Harris Poll #11, February 2003.

Norris, Pippa and Ronald Inglehart.Sacred and Secula: Religion and Politics Worldwide, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Thalheimer, Fred.Religiosity and Secularization in the Academic Professions.Sociology of Education, Vol. 46, No. 2
(Spring, 1973), pp. 183-202.

Tobin, Gary A. and Aryeh K. Weinberg. Profiles of the American University Volume II: The Religious Beliefs & Behavior of College Faculty, Institute for Jewish & Community Research, San Francisco, 2007.


Press: Latino Influx Bolsters Catholic Church but Young and U.S.-Born Latinos Become More Religiously Diverse

[Para español oprima aquí]

HARTFORD, Conn. – The growth in the Latino population in the United States from 1990 through 2008 has helped the Catholic Church maintain its position as the nation’s largest religious tradition, a new study by researchers at Trinity College shows. Over the 18-year period, the influx of 9 million Latino Catholics accounted for most of the 11 million additions to the U.S. Catholic population and, as a result, Latinos comprised 32 percent of all U.S. Catholics in 2008 compared to 20 percent in 1990.

Even so, the Catholic Church still lost ground, albeit proportionally, among the 31 million U.S. Latino adults as their identification with Catholicism decreased from 66 percent in 1990 to 60 percent in 2008.

Similar to the general American public, Latinos have become less identified with Christianity – down from 91 percent in 1990 to 82 percent in 2008. But other religions and faiths have failed to attract Latinos. Mirroring the overall national trend, there has been a significant jump in the number and percentage of Nones, the no-religion population. Nones increased fourfold among Latinos from 900,000 or 6 percent in 1990 to nearly 4 million or 12 percent in 2008, making it the fastest growing segment. Religious traditions that tripled their number of adherents in the past 18 years were Protestant Sects, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Adventists, and the non-denominational Christian Generic tradition. During that same time, the number of Pentecostal adherents doubled but merely kept pace with Latino population growth.

These findings and more are revealed in a new report, U.S. Latino Religious Identification 1990-2008: Growth, Diversity & Transformation, which also sheds light on significant religious trends among Latinos by age, geography, education, gender, marital status, language and nativity, and political affiliation. The study, which is an outgrowth of the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) 2008, was conducted by Juhem Navarro-Rivera, a research fellow at Trinity’s Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC), and Trinity Professors Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar.

Navarro-Rivera observed that, “Over the past 18 years, there are probably few phenomena that have changed America and American religion more than the growth of the Latino population. The adult Latino population doubled from 14.6 million to 30.8 million to become the largest U.S. minority. This immense growth of more than 16 million people has inevitably had a major impact on the religious profile and trends at both the national and state levels.”

ARIS 2008 is the third in a series of landmark studies analyzing the religious beliefs and patterns of Americans in the 48 contiguous states. The earlier studies were conducted in 1990 and 2001. The 2008 survey of 54,461 adults (in English and Spanish) included a special section on language use and nativity among Latinos.

Of the ARIS 2008 sample, 3,169 individuals identified themselves as Latino, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 1.74 percent. For analytical exactitude, the results of the 2008 survey were compared with ARIS 1990 because it allowed for a greater time span to look at generational differences and the transformation wrought by massive recent immigration.

Other highlights of the study:

  • The longer a Latino has lived in the United States, the less likely that he or she will be Catholic. Moreover, those most proficient in English are less likely to identify themselves as Catholic and more likely to self-identify as a None or affiliate with conservative Christian traditions.
  • Latino religious identification shows a gender effect, as in the general U.S. population. Two traditions at opposite poles of the religious spectrum exhibit the largest gender imbalance: the None population is heavily male (61 percent) while the Pentecostal is heavily female (58 percent).
  • Marital status reveals distinct patterns. The percentage of unmarried persons cohabitating with a partner and therefore outside of civil or religious marriage varies from 15 percent among the Nones to 11 percent among Catholics to 7 percent among non-Catholic Christians. In addition, Latinos who claim to be separated are overwhelmingly Catholic women, suggesting that Latinas are more loyal to Catholic Church prohibitions against divorce and remarriage than Latino men.
  • There are over 1.1 million married male Latino Nones but fewer than 400,000 married female Nones, suggesting that many couples and many Latino homes are not religiously homogeneous.
  • Considerable age differences exist between adherents of the various religious traditions, with the larger proportions of Nones and Protestant Sects under age 30. These are the fastest growing traditions among Latinos.
  • Class differences are also in evidence. The most educated major group is the Nones (25 percent possessing a college degree), while the least educated is the Protestant sects (8 percent who are college educated). Mainline Protestant Latinos have the highest household incomes and sectarian Protestants the lowest. Meanwhile, the non-denominational Christian Generic tradition is the most suburbanized.
  • Latino political party preference and voter registration varies by religious tradition. The study reveals that Latino Catholics and Nones are most likely to prefer the Democratic Party, while Republican Party preferences are more common among the non-Catholic Christian traditions.

Keysar suggested  that “distinct Latino religious communities and profiles are emerging in different parts of the country which reflect differences in socio-demographics and country of origin.”

  • The most striking geographical change is the shift of the Christian Generic tradition towards the South, almost tripling its Latino population in the region. In Texas, Latinos grew from 8 percent in 1990 to 20 percent in 2008 of those in the Christian Generic tradition. The percentage of Latinos among Catholics in Texas dropped from 73 percent to 66 percent over the 18-year period, while Latino Nones rose from 15 percent to 28 percent of all Texans without a religious identification.
  • Latinos went from being 51 percent of all Catholics in California in 1990 to 56 percent in 2008, while Latino Nones in that state climbed from 10 percent to 24 percent of all Californian Nones.
  • The proportion (though not the number) of Nones has dropped among Latinos in New York. However, Protestant Sects tradition, such as Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, gained ground in New York and in Florida to become one-tenth of the Latino population in these states.

Kosmin stated that “whereas Latino immigrants are contributing significantly to the stability of American Catholicism, the younger generation and the U.S.-born population are tending to polarize between those moving away from religion and those moving towards conservative Christian traditions.”

In sum, the report shows that Latinos are undergoing a transformation by becoming more religiously diverse even as they are transforming the American religious landscape.

For more information contact Barry Kosmin at 860-297-2388 or barry.kosmin@trincoll.edu; or Ariela Keysar at 201-784-5724 or ariela.keysar@trincoll.edu.

Contacto en espanol Juhem Navarro-Rivera at 860-341-1485 or juhem.navarrorivera@trincoll.edu.

To download a copy of U.S. Latino Religious Identification 1990-2008: Growth, Diversity & Transformation, please visit: http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/latinos2008.pdf

News: ARIS 2008 data published by U.S. Bureau of the Census

ARIS 2008 data published by U.S. Bureau of the Census in the Statistical Abstract of the United States (130th Edition).


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