Donald Trump’s presidency accelerated the decline of church attendance in America. While the number of people going to church was already going down steadily, data from Harvard University’s Cooperative Election Study shows an “exogeneous shock” in 2016, according to political scientist Ryan Burge, who specializes in the study of religious data.
“For every action there is a reaction,” Burge told CT. “Donald Trump is the action. His election caused all these ripple effects in American society, and you can see it in the pews.”
Politically moderate and left-leaning evangelicals appear most impacted. A growing number seem to have felt estranged from their congregations in the Trump era. The rate of self-identified Democrats giving up on church in their 20s–50s doubled from the end of Barack Obama’s presidency to the end of Trump’s, according to Burge. And the dramatic change came in 2016. At the same time, more Republicans started identifying as evangelical but not attending any worship services.
The growing consensus of social scientists is that political identities are currently much, much stronger than religious commitments.
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