Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Schwadel, Philip. 2018. “The Political Implications of Religious Non-Affiliation in Emerging Adulthood.” Journal of Religion & Society Supplement 17: 149-166.


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Religious non-affiliation has increased considerably in the U.S. over the last few decades. The contemporary generation of emerging adults is the first to have a sizable proportion raised with no religious affiliation. This article uses nationally representative, longitudinal survey data to examine how both non-affiliation in adolescence and switching to non-affiliation in emerging adulthood influence political interest, behaviors, orientation, and partisanship. The results show the following: 1) that unaffiliated emerging adults are less politically active than the religiously affiliated; 2) that the unaffiliated are relatively liberal and unlikely to be Republican; 3) that the unaffiliated are more likely than the religiously affiliated to exhibit signs of political apathy; and 4) that there is little difference in political outcomes between those who switch to no affiliation and those who were unaffiliated in adolescence. The implications of these findings for the civic and political health of the nation is discussed.