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Where are the “nones”? US map shows dramatic swing from 2008

Rise of the nones

FrankHH | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 10/23/23

“The nones are basically everywhere now and in large numbers. It’s not just isolated pockets in certain states,” says map author Ryan Burge.

The rise of the “nones,” or those who do not claim any religious affiliation, has been a highly reported topic in the Catholic world. While we can see the consequences in the pews each week, it can be hard to visualize exactly how widespread the problem is from an individual parish. Now, however, thanks to the efforts of Ryan Burge, there’s a map that illustrates just how much the American religious landscape has changed. 

Reporting from the site Graphs About Religion, Burge accumulated data from The Cooperative Election Study, an annual survey from Harvard University that is highly regarded for its pool of more than 50,000 respondents. While the split of respondents by state is not perfectly even, Burge noted that there were enough respondents in each state for him to analyze the data and compare it to results of the 2008 survey.

Click here to see the map of the percentage of “nones” per state. 

The difference between the 2008 map and that of 2022 was stark and jarring. In 2008, the vast majority of “nones” were located on the West coast, with only a few East coast states firmly in the dark blue, the color indicating that 36% or more of the state’s population identifies as “none.” The middle America of 2008 is shown with barely any color at all, with most states displaying less than 30% “nones,” with quite a few of them well below 25%. 

By 2022, however, practically the entire country is colored blue, with the majority of states exceeding the 36% needed for the darkest shading. Some of the states with the biggest swing include Utah, where “nones” rose from 18% to 38%, Louisiana (from 18% to 32%), Kansas (24% to 40%), Connecticut (20% to 39%), and Montana (24% to 51%). This is just a selection of some of the biggest changes in states, but just about every single state showed a dramatic rise in those without religious affiliation in just 14 years. 

There was only one state in the US that had no change in their portion of “nones.” North Dakota respondents reported “nones” at a rate of 17% in 2008 and that figure held at 17% in 2022. South Dakota was just behind them with the smallest increase of “nones,” which rose from 24% to 25% by 2022. 

The Bible Belt is the only other area of the US where the rate of “nones” has not passed the 35% threshold to place them in dark blue. Even in these traditionally religious states, however, “nones” were shown to approach or exceed one-third of the population. 

Overall, the dark blue that pervades the map suggests that more than 36% of the country does not claim any formal religion. This led Burge to comment: 

“The nones are basically everywhere now and in large numbers. It’s not just isolated pockets in certain states.”

Click here to see the full map along with Ryan Burges analysis of data from the Cooperative Election Study.

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