How America Changed During Barack Obama’s Presidency | Pew Research Center
Demographic changes don’t happen quickly. Obama’s presidency is only a chapter in a story that began long before his arrival and will continue long after his departure. Even so, the U.S. of today differs in some significant ways from the U.S. of 2008.
The nation’s growing diversity has become more evident, too. In 2013, for the first time, the majority of newborn babies in the U.S. were racial or ethnic minorities. The same year, a record-high 12% of newlyweds married someone of a different race.
The November electorate was the country’s most racially and ethnically diverse ever. Nearly one-in-three eligible voters on Election Day were Hispanic, black, Asian or another racial or ethnic minority, reflecting a steady rise since 2008. Strong growth in the number of Hispanic eligible voters, in particular U.S.-born youth, drove much of this change. Indeed, for the first time, the Hispanic share of the electorate is now on par with the black share.
While illegal immigration served as a flashpoint in the tumultuous campaign to succeed Obama, there has been little change in the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. since 2009. And for the first time since the 1940s, more Mexican immigrants – both legal and unauthorized – have returned to Mexico from the U.S. than have entered.
When it comes to the nation’s religious identity, the biggest trend during Obama’s presidency is the rise of those who claim no religion at all. Those who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular,” now make up nearly a quarter of the U.S. adult population, up from 16% in 2007.
Christians, meanwhile, have fallen from 78% to 71% of the U.S. adult population, owing mainly to modest declines in the share of adults who identify with mainline Protestantism and Catholicism. The share of Americans identifying with evangelical Protestantism, historically black Protestant denominations and other smaller Christian groups, by contrast, have remained fairly stable.
Due largely to the growth of those who don’t identify with any religion, the shares of Americans who say they believe in God, consider religion to be very important in their lives, say they pray daily and say they attend religious services at least monthly have all ticked downward in recent years. At the same time, the large majority of Americans who do identify with a faith are, on average, as religiously observant as they were a few years ago, and by some measures even more so.
The tide of demographic changes in the U.S. has affected both major parties, but in different ways. Democratic voters are becoming less white, less religious and better-educated at a faster rate than that of the country, while Republicans are aging more quickly than the country as a whole. Education, in particular, has emerged as an important dividing line in recent years, with college graduates becoming more likely to identify as Democrats and those without a college degree becoming more likely to identify as Republicans.