UC Berkeley sociologists Mike Hout and Claude Fischer , along with  Mark Chaves of Duke University, analyzed data on religious attitudes as part of the General Social Survey, a highly cited biannual poll conducted by NORC, an independent research institute at the University of Chicago.

Results of the survey – which looked at numerous issues, including attitudes about gun ownership and how tax dollars should be spent, and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation – are being released now and in coming weeks.

On American attitudes toward religion, UC Berkeley researchers found that 20 percent of a nationally representative group reported no religious preference. That’s a jump from 1990 when all but 8 percent of Americans polled identified with an organized faith.

”This continues a trend of Americans disavowing a specific religious affiliation that has accelerated greatly since 1990,” said Hout, lead author of the study.

Hout and Fischer are authors of the General Social Survey study that in 2002 first identified a rise in the number of “unchurched.” They are careful to distinguish the survey category of “no religion,” which means individuals who are not part of an organized religion, from “atheists,” who do not believe in God and made up just 3 percent of those interviewed last year. Meanwhile, just 8 percent of those surveyed said they were raised with no religion.