Over the last few decades, religious disaffiliation has been rising relative to earlier points in the 20th century. In 2014, Pew Research Center found that the share of unaffiliated adults in the U.S. had grown from 16 to 23 percent over a seven-year period. While roughly 70 percent of American adults identify as Christians, the so-called nones—people with no religion in particular—have been growing as a share of the population.
The new PRRI data shows that this is happening more noticeably in some places than others. Roughly 41 percent of Vermonters and 33 percent of those from New Hampshire aren’t affiliated with any particular religion, carrying the banner of secularism for the Northeast. This was also true in the Pacific Northwest, where more than one-third of residents in Oregon and Washington didn’t claim a specific faith.
But there were some surprises in the geographic break-down, too, including states that don’t fit regional stereotypes about secular, coastal elites or hippie-ish mountain terrain. Non-religious people compose the largest share of the populations of Hawaii and Alaska compared to other faith groups. In general, the non-religious states of America are concentrated west of the Mississippi River, according to PRRI, spanning Arizona to Nebraska to Wyoming.
Non-religious Americans are often portrayed in stereotypical fashion. They’re the white, yuppie city dwellers of Portland; the blue-haired atheists who attend Skeptic conferences; or the godless youth at progressive political rallies. While these images aren’t necessarily wrong, they’re incomplete. Non-religious Americans come from a range of income, education, and racial backgrounds.