Wouldn't you know it. I search for a comprehensive survey on religion, from which to extract freethinker-related stats. I find a big one (35,000+ interviews) from Pew and post the relevant information.
Then, without even trying, I find a BIGGER survey targeted exactly where I wanted it: at the American non-religious (a group I'm calling "freethinkers"). This newer survey, from Trinity College, sampled 54,461 adults, then zeroed in on the 7,407 non-religious (called, "Nones") respondents. For comparison, it uses the 1990 National Survey of Religious Identification (which interviewed 113,713 adults, of whom 9,899 were non-religious).
Please download the attached .PDF document for the entire Trinity-run survey and profiles.The Nones.pdf
Below are some highlights from the survey.
- The 1990s was the decade when the "secular boom" occurred - each year 1.3 million more adult Americans joined the ranks of the Nones. Since 2001 the annual increase has halved to 660,000 a year. (Fig.3.1)
- Whereas Nones are presently 15% of the total adult U.S. population, 22% of Americans aged 18-29 years self-identify as Nones. (Fig.1.2)
- In terms of Belonging (self-identification) 1 in 6 Americans is presently of No Religion, while in terms of Belief and Behavior the ratio is higher around 1 in 4. (Fig. 1.17)
- Regarding belief in the divine, most Nones are neither atheists nor theists but rather agnostics and deists (59%) and perhaps best described as skeptics. (Fig.1.17)
- The most significant difference between the religious and non-religious populations is a gender gap. (Fig. 1.17)
- Whereas 19% of American men are Nones only 12% of American women are Nones. (Fig. 2.1)
- The gender ratio among Nones is 60 males for every 40 females. (Fig.1.1)
- Women are less likely to switch out of religion than men.
- Women are also less likely to stay non-religious when they are born and raised in a non-religious family.
- Most Nones are 1st generation - only 32% of "current" Nones report they were None at age 12. (Fig.1.10)
- 24% of current Nones (and 35% of 1st generation or "new" Nones) are former Catholics. (Fig. 1.10)
- Geography remains a factor - more than 1 in 5 people in certain regions (the West, New England) are Nones.
- Class is not a distinguishing characteristic: Nones are not different from the generalpopulation by education or income. (Figs 1.6 & 1.7)
- Race is a declining factor in differentiating Nones. Latinos have tripled their proportion among Nones from 1990-2008 from 4% to 12%. (Fig.1.4)
- The ethnic/racial profile of Nones shows Asians, Irish and Jews are the most secularized ethnic origin groups. One-third of the Nones claim Irish ancestry. (Figs 1.4 & 1.5)
- Nones are much more likely to believe in human evolution (61%) than the general American public (38%). (Fig. 1.15)
- Politically, 21% of the nation's independents are Nones, as are 16% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans. In 1990, 12% of independents were Nones, as were 6% of Democrats and 6% of Republicans. (Fig. 2.1)