How religious are America’s best and brightest? A Harvard Crimson poll of the university’s class of 2019 provides a glimpse into the beliefs and practices of incoming freshman, including sex, politics and drug use. Some of the interesting findings included the religious breakdown, especially when compared to other millennials in the U.S.
Harvard’s combined number of atheists and agnostics among its incoming class exceeds the number of Catholics and Protestants, as Pew Research Center’s Conrad Hackett noted. The number appears to be a striking contrast with the rest of the U.S. millennial population, those from ages 18 to 34.
Pew’s survey suggested a decline in Christianity in the U.S., especially among millennials, though Harvard’s freshman still don’t appear to reflect the rest of millennials in the U.S.
Among the general population in the U.S., 52 percent of millennials identify as Protestant or Catholic, according to Pew, compared to 34.1 percent of Harvard’s incoming class. And 13 percent of millennial Americans identify as atheist or agnostic, compared with 37.9 percent of Harvard freshmen who said they were atheist or agnostic.
Part of the reason why American Christianity is on the decline is due to the number of people who don’t self-identify with a religion anymore. Pew also asks survey respondents if they are unaffiliated with faith, and 36 percent of them describe themselves as not affiliated with religion.
The Crimson’s poll and Pew’s survey are not perfect comparisons since they appear to ask about religious identification differently. Pew provides the opportunity for respondents to say they are not religious. The Crimson doesn’t appear to have a category for those who don’t identify with religion at all, except for the categories of atheists and agnostics.
In other words, if the Crimson asked about religious affiliation another way, students might respond differently.
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