July 14, 2016

Evangelicals increasingly say it’s becoming harder for them in America

The U.S. has long been a Christian-majority nation, but major social changes may be making at least one segment of Christians — evangelicals — feel like America is becoming a more difficult place for them to live.

Being evangelical Christian in the U.S.A growing share of self-identified “evangelical or born-again” Protestants (41%) say it has become more difficult to be an evangelical Christian in the U.S. in recent years; just 34% answered the question the same way in September 2014. Only about one-in-ten evangelicals now say it has become easier for their community in the U.S., while nearly half (47%) say it has not changed very much.

Some of this feeling may stem from the fact that the country is becoming more secular: A rising share of Americans do not identify with any religion, while a shrinking portion of the population is Christian. Another factor may be the spread of legal same-sex marriage nationwide and increasing social acceptance of homosexuality, developments with which many conservative Christians disagree. And other clashes with the values many conservative Christians hold continue to play out across the country, whether it be over the teaching of evolution in public schools, the presence of religious displays on public property for Christmas or whether public school cheerleaders can put Bible verses on their banners.

Nearly half of white evangelicals (46%) say things are getting tougher for evangelical Christians in America, similar to the share who took this position in the 2014 survey (42%). In addition, 31% of nonwhite evangelicals (mostly blacks and Hispanics) now say it has become more difficult to be an evangelical in the U.S., up from 22% two years ago.

Compared with evangelicals, Catholics feel less negatively about their place in America. Only about one-in-five U.S. Catholics (18%) say it has become harder to be a Catholic in this country, identical to the share who said this two years ago. One-in-ten (9%) now say it has become easier, while a solid majority (68%) say the experience of being a Catholic in America hasn’t changed much in recent years.

And among people with no religious affiliation, perceptions about their place in society are much more positive. Very few religious “nones” (7%) say it has recently become harder to be a nonreligious person in America, while far more (29%) say it has gotten easier. As with Catholics, these figures are little changed since 2014, and a clear majority of “nones” (60%) say the status of being a nonreligious person in the U.S. hasn’t changed very much lately.

Topics: Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Religion and Society, Religious Affiliation

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.

28 Comments

  1. Anonymous2 months ago

    Americans are so over RWers. It is too extreme. Religion does not belong in government. They force their views on others. This is resented. It has been so in our history.

  2. Renae Timmermans2 months ago

    True

  3. Ryan Mercer2 months ago

    “…evangelicals — feel like America is becoming a more difficult place for them to live.”

    Not more difficult to live, more difficult to control. The evangelicals have long enjoyed disproportionate political power, and now that’s changing. Oh how difficult this must make the lives of these mostly white straight people. They can’t refuse to bake same-sex wedding cakes anymore. They can’t refuse to provide health benefits to contraception using employees anymore. They can’t make homosexuals in the military go back into the closet. Oh god, the horror! Life is getting so hard. Tear. 🙁

    1. Anonymous2 months ago

      “They have to go against their conscience on sexuality. They have to include contraception in health benefits even though they see that as supporting a sin.”

      Yup. It’s not a horror, but yeah it’s a mix of contempt (which you show) and coercion.

      BTW: I am not straight.

      1. Ryan Mercer2 months ago

        Yes, life is so easy for most evangelicals that they can afford to fight philosophical battles over “conscience.” That’s a code word for bigotry, btw. If it was about conscience, then pharmacists and court clerks could find new jobs that don’t interfere with their conscience. Having the *choice* to seek new employment, which is easier to find when one is white, or continue to receive pay doing something questionable, DOES NOT MAKE LIFE HARD. It makes it amazingly privileged and now evangelicals are just whining because they can’t control everyone else like they *know* god wants them to.

    2. Anonymous2 months ago

      “The evangelicals have long enjoyed disproportionate political power,” They certainly don’t feel that way. True, they have helped to elect officials pandering to their policy issues, but got little in return.

  4. Anonymous2 months ago

    They could all move to Texas and secede.

  5. Sea Pig2 months ago

    Awww… too bad, so sad.

    Article is pretty vague. Doesn’t explain why at all. Just took some poll numbers and made an article from them. I mean, how many of those polled made wedding cakes for living? Could skew the results, ya know.

  6. Jerry Reiter2 months ago

    Correction: Older and more bigoted evangelicals are finding it harder to live in America. This difficulty they experience is purely cultural and has nothing to do with Jesus. Many evangelicals have no problem with living in a diverse society. Christians who remember, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” don’t expect that the entire civil government and society will only reflect their values. And as far as LGBT issues go, 8 of 10 evangelicals under 30 say gays can make good parents, and nearly half support marriage equality and an end to discrimination in jobs and housing.

  7. Anonymous2 months ago

    If what they believe in was based on reality instead of fairy tales they’d probably be given a lot more respect. A good rule of thumb for all of us would be to “question before belief”, but for far too many people that is just too much work. We can be so much lazier skipping the questioning part altogether and moving straight into the believing, but that doesn’t make it real and sooner or later our haste will undo us.

  8. Dan St John2 months ago

    “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”― Barry M. Goldwater Republican Presidential candidate

  9. Jet Gardner2 months ago

    The explanation is simple, self-righteous Evangelicals are suffering what they’ve been preaching, “Judge not lest you be judged yourself.” Maybe if they were a little less interested in political power and more interested in the teaching of Jesus they wouldn’t be in the state they’re in now.

  10. Anonymous2 months ago

    Did they sort the data to separate self-identified Evangelicals who attend church services regularly vs. those who rarely attend church?

    In the Presidential polls there are some interesting, striking differences between these two groups.

  11. Andrew Scott2 months ago

    The challenge for Christians is that as commonly accepted standards change, those who adhere to what they believe in are seen as increasingly antiquated. The Bible indicates that this would happen, but also shows that Christians need to do their best to co-exist peacefully with others whether or not they share their beliefs.

    This means learning to “tune out” people who believe that right and wrong are determined by popular standards.

    It also means not being self-righteous or trying to enforce standards on others. For example, we may feel that same-sex marriage is wrong. In that case we won’t practice same-sex marriage. But if we make it our mission to stop other people from practicing same-sex marriage or act abusively toward those who do then we’re certainly going to make life for difficult for ourselves, and we’ll be fighting a losing battle. We decide for ourselves, not for everyone else.

  12. Anonymous2 months ago

    Aww, you are forced to hear opinions that are different from yours and the government is starting to pass laws based on human rights and morality instead of your twisted thousands year old book, poor little you!

  13. Michael Gilchrease2 months ago

    ha ha do you expect heaven and all its glory to be at your beckoning call..? freedom allows all evils…..yea you were chosen…not to tell men of lustful minds and lying hearts..but to face lucifer and satan…with me….so dont take it so bad….no great palace was ever won crying about the mud or the arrows coming straight for your heads…ha ha gather up and have faith…..the evil shall destroy itself..with vanity and deception…now get to work. hope is a four letter word…get passionate about it.

  14. Sharon Hatzel2 months ago

    Obviously this study was not designed to answer all the requested detail. I am happy just to hear that the Evangelical right is finally getting some push back. Having lived in Texas and watching them try to change education, personal decisions, force their never ending point of view on everyone while often living on the far fringes of their own so called beliefs. I am really glad they are feeling pressured. They deserve it.

  15. Anonymous2 months ago

    It’s easy to understand why they feel this way, increased tolerance of other people’s views and religion within society makes evangelical christians feel persecuted. Making it clear they are not a majority scares them, as they are afraid the “godless” will treat them the way they treat anyone outside their circle.

  16. Max T. Furr2 months ago

    Yes, it is getting harder for evangelicals in America–harder for them to lord over the lives and rights of others who don’t agree with them.

    I’m a member of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. I keep up with the Christian right’s constant attempts to impose, often by law, their religious beliefs on others. Virtually time they are thowarted from such impositions, they accuse the government of attacking Christianity. Their complete lack of understanding of what supports their religion–the Establishment Clause–seems to be the common thread that runs throughout the far right.

    This is particularly dangerous because self serving politicians easily get their votes simply by demagoguery, but once in Congress, will actually work against the voters/workers in pandering to Wall Street.

    As they apparently “reason,” why vote for economic justice when there are people out there who are marrying people of the same sex and women who want the freedom to control their own reproductive lives, business owners who want to discriminate but aren’t allowed and public schools having the gall to teach evolutionary science and reject the myth of biblical creation?

  17. Joseph Myers2 months ago

    It’s interesting that it has taken so long for Evangelicals to realize that it is difficult to keep Kosher, or, perhaps, to insulate their beliefs, in an increasingly diverse society.

    On the other hand, it is really much, much easier to be an ultra-orthodox Muslim in those Middle Eastern countries which have changed from secular governments and policies to those which require religious tradition and belief as the first principle of governance. (The opposite of our separation of “church and state.”) Mohammed is considered not only a prophet, but a military leader, religious leader, and the embodiment of the system of governance and the law — In a Caliphate, it’s good to be Caliph.

  18. Anonymous2 months ago

    It always has been difficult for Christians in the societies they are living in, unless a commune, or isolated on a desert island, to mesh with the local society, since it for the most part is materialistic, and worships itself or idols, or other entities that directly conflict with Christianity. The idea of a single, Sovereign God, who demands total obedience, to Himself and no other, with a specific set of rules that govern that worship, and all the relationships between Him and the people, as well as the people to people relationships fly in the face of the automous nature of the human spirit.
    So no wonder Christians clash with every society they are in, eventually, even though some will tolerate them for what they can get out of them. If missionaries are well received by a nation, the missionary is doing something wrong. Christ commands us tell the people about who He is, how the people can be redeemed, and how to worship and serve this Almighty, Holy God. As long as we keep quiet, all will be well, but if we start doing just that, the all hell will break loose.

    1. Anonymous2 months ago

      It would be helpful if everyone (including you) used more precise language.

      In particular, there is a difference, of course, between “Christians” and “evangelical Christians”.

      Most of the true Christians I know rarely refer to themselves as “Christians”. Either they do not say “I am a Christian”, or they say “I am a Baptist” etc.

      By contrast, as no one disputes, evangelical “Christians” think they are the only true Christians. Which is really quite ironic.

      1. Stanley Cronin2 months ago

        …and the comma goes inside the quotation marks.

  19. Anonymous2 months ago

    Did the survey have a follow up question in which respondents were asked to give a personal example of why it’s harder for them to be … whatever? Or is the comment that ” Some of this feeling may stem from ” a guess rather than a finding?

  20. Anonymous2 months ago

    The headline on this piece is not especially helpful, because it is insufficiently specific. How, *exactly,* is life in the US becoming more difficult for them? Are there restrictions on the ways and places where they worship? Restrictions on what they can say on web sites?

    Or, rather, is the problem that there is more pushback on their views and public statements?

    1. demz taters2 months ago

      The problem is pushback against their attempts to force their particular brand of morality on the nation as a whole through legislation and politicizing social issues. That, in the eyes of the most strident evangelicals, is tantamount to persecution.

  21. Anonymous2 months ago

    This is interesting but I would like to see how Protestants who do not identify themselves as “Evangelical” feel. Evangelicals do not represent all non-Catholic Christians.

    1. Michael Gilchrease2 months ago

      only in mans mind is there any different in believers..chances are if they separate themselves they simply are not christian whatever they say.