There are many different denominations, theologies, and preferences in American Christianity. Evangelicals are the largest group. There are different definitions as to what makes someone an evangelical Christian as opposed to a mainline Protestant. Poll numbers can skew widely based on the definition.
As many as 35% or as few as 6% of Americans would be considered as evangelical, depending on the poll. Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit research organization that studies religion, culture, and public policy, defines evangelicals as those who “self-identify as Protestant Christians who also identify as evangelical or born again.” According to PRRI, 15.3% of Americans identify as white evangelical Protestants.
According to the National Association of Evangelicals, evangelicals have four core tenets: They must believe that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience; that it is important to spread the word of God to non-Christians through missionary and social-reform efforts; that the Bible is the ultimate authority; and that the death of Jesus on the cross made the redemption of humanity possible.
The percentage of evangelical Americans is steadily declining, but there are still a large number of people identifying as evangelical in every state. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a survey from the Public Religion Research Institute of over 70,000 Americans to determine the most evangelical states.
Some surveys, including the one from PRRI, split black and white Protestants into separate categories before further classifying white as Protestants as either mainline or evangelical, as black and white Christians tend to have very different outlooks on religion and politics. For instance, white evangelicals hold a strong, reliable preference for Republican candidates. Black Protestants are much more likely to vote Democrat.
The percentage of Americans who identify as evangelical has declined in recent years, as has the rate of religiously affiliated Americans as a whole. Some 15.3% of Americans identified as a white evangelical Protestant in 2017, a 2.2 percentage point decrease from 2013, the first year the survey was conducted. The rate of religiously unaffiliated people grew 4.2 percentage points to 25.3% in 2017.
To determine the most evangelical states in the country, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2017 American Values Atlas from the nonprofit research organization Public Religion Research Institute. States were ranked by the percentage of respondents who self-identified as a white evangelical Protestant in a phone interview. For each state, we reviewed the change in the percentage of evangelicals, most common religion, and fastest growing religion with data from PRRI from PRRI. The median annual household income came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Hawaii and Alaska were not included in the initial 2013 survey, so there is no data for the 2013 change in evangelical percentage in those two states. PRRI bears no responsibility for the analyses or interpretations of the data presented here.