Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Carl W. Roberts


There has been much written about the decline of liberal Protestantism beginning in the 1960s and continuing into the 1980s. A concurrent growth in both conservative Protestantism and in non-Judeo-Christian religions has also been indicated. This study examines the question of why people switch denominational preference, with a particular focus on those factors that can explain age, period, and cohort (APC) shifts in religious affiliation. The denominational character of the American religious scene is discussed first, noting some of the schisms and mergers that have shaped the religious choices available. Next people's motivations for seeking religion are addressed, with a particular emphasis on those factors that might lead individuals to change their denominational preference. The third chapter describes the research strategy employed. This includes a description of the data set (American National Election Surveys, 1964-1986) and the methods used to determine which of a variety of independent variables are useful in explaining APC shifts in religious affiliation. The final two chapters describe the results and conclusions;Given the results found in the data analysis, it is concluded: (1) that the decline of liberal Protestantism is a result of a shifting of affiliations by highly educated recent cohorts to nontraditional religions; (2) that the growth of conservative Protestant religions has been greatly exaggerated (although they have become the second largest group in the United States, this is due to the losses to nontraditional religions experienced by liberal Protestant denominations, rather than the ability of conservative Protestantism to attract converts); and (3) that the evidence suggests that secularization in the United States is occurring only among the liberal Protestant and nonaffiliate groups, while the other religious groups appear to be relatively stable in terms of membership.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

André Nauta



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

235 pages