President Barack Obama campaigned on a platform of “hope” and “change” back in 2008, pledging to “fundamentally transform” America. Eight years later, the country — whether by Obama’s own intentions or by way of natural progression — is most certainly a very different place than it was before.
Just how different, you ask? Well, the Pew Research Center has released a new analysis detailing exactly “how America changed during Barack Obama’s presidency,” noting that, while there were many cultural, technological and social shifts, the “biggest trend” on the faith front during his two terms in office was the growth of the share of Americans who report having no religious affiliation.
“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,” wrote Pew president Michael Dimock. “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 percent in 2007.”
The change in religious affiliation during Obama’s tenure has been a topic of discussion over the past two years, specifically after the 2015 release of Pew Research data showing major shifts in Americans’ religious affiliations between 2007 and 2014. It should also be noted that the share of Christians declined during this timeframe from 78 percent to 71 percent due mainly to some decreases among self-described mainline Protestants and Catholics.
But these dynamics go beyond mere labels, as actionable indicators of religious practice also show notable decreases when it comes to belief in God, daily prayer and religious attendance. Church attendance, for instance, is down three percentage points to 36 percent from 39 percent in 2007. And belief in God was also down slightly from 92 percent in 2007 to 89 percent in 2014, though it appears the faithful themselves have remained pretty consistent in their beliefs and practices.
“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,” Dimock wrote.
Of course, faith isn’t the only area in which America has rapidly transformed. Consider that recreational marijuana is increasingly accepted, with the drug now legal in eight states and the District of Columbia. Gay marriage, too, is not only accepted by the majority of citizens, but is also now legal across the land after the landmark 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, as Pew noted.
On the technology front, there’s been an explosion in the use of smartphones as well as social media over the past eight years, with stark transformations in the way Americans communicate with one another as well as the world around them.
Finally, it appears the divisiveness many have been complaining about in recent years is measurable, with Pew finding that the partisan divide when it comes to presidential approval is wider now than it is been in over 60 years, with the party opposing the president holding little approval of his performance. Remarkably, just 14 percent of Republicans approved of Obama throughout his presidency, versus 81 percent of Democrats.
Regardless of what people believe about the changes that have unfolded in America of late, Pew concluded that “the country (Obama) led for eight years is undeniably different.” Read the complete analysis detailing all of the changes that have unfolded during Obama’s presidency here.