Although Catholics have long made up about a quarter of the U.S. population, recent data has shown that percentage dropping. In 2007, 23.9 percent of Americans identified as Catholic. In 2014, 20.8 percent of Americans said the same, according to previous survey results from Pew.
But the new survey illustrates something else about Catholic life in the United States: while the percentage of Americans who may identify their religion as Catholicism is dropping, a much larger group of Americans identify as Catholic in some way.
In all, 45 percent of Americans say they are either Catholic, or are connected to Catholicism. That larger percentage includes “Cultural Catholics” (making up nine percent of those surveyed) who are not practicing Catholics but who identify with the religion in some way; and “ex-Catholics” (also nine percent) who were formerly Catholic but no longer identify with Catholicism at all. And another eight percent said they had some other connection to Catholicism, for instance by having a Catholic partner or spouse. For the purposes of the survey, Pew kept each category mutually exclusive.
According to the survey, about half of those who were raised Catholic end up leaving at some point, while about 11 percent of those who left have since returned.