WASHINGTON, May 12 (UPI) -- The number of Americans who identify as Christians has declined by nearly eight percentage points since 2007, marking a dramatic shift from decades past, the Pew Research Center found.
The study found 7.8 percent fewer people described themselves as Christians in 2014 than in 2007, with an increasing number identifying as agnostic, atheist or say they have no religion. The shift spreads across all landscapes and cultures across the country, from coast to coast and among all demographic groups, a broad survey from Pew found. The drop is particularly pronounced among young adults and is widespread across all age groups.
"The decline is taking place in every region of the country, including the Bible Belt," said Alan Cooperman, the center's director of religion research and lead editor of the report.
Even with the noted decline, Christianity dominates the American landscape, with nearly 71 percent counting themselves as Christians. The number of those who have no religious affiliation increased from 16 percent to 23 percent.
The results come from phone interviews with some 35,000 Americans in 2014 and provides a comprehensive look at the population, the report says. The Christian population has been on the decline for years. The rise in the unaffiliated, called the religious "nones," has been propelled in part by generational changes as millennials reach adulthood. But it's not just the younger generation moving away. Since 2007, all age groups have become less religious, researchers found.
The Catholic Church has fared the worst of all religious groups, with 3.1 percent fewer Catholics than in 2007.
"Nearly one-third of American adults (31.7 percent) say they were raised Catholic. Among that group, 41 percent no longer identify with Catholicism," the report said. "This means that 12.9 percent of American adults are former Catholics, while just 2 percent of U.S. adults have converted to Catholicism from another religious tradition. No other religious group in the survey has such a lopsided ratio of losses to gains."
The Evangelical Protestants are the only major Christian group that has gained more members than it lost through conversion. Among race and ethnic groups, some 24 percent of whites say they have no religion, compared to 20 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of black Americans.