March 29, 2024

It's Good Friday, ahead of Easter Sunday.

  •  Smart Brevity™ count: 1,298 words ... 5 mins. Thanks to Noah Bressner for orchestrating. Copy edited by Bryan McBournie.

🎤 If you're a PR expert: Axios just launched Communicators Pro, a premium membership with exclusive insights, scoops and events for the comms industry. Read more + sign up.

1 big thing: America loses faith

Data: PRRI. Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans increasingly are calling themselves "unaffiliated" with any religion — or rejecting religion altogether — at a time when influential Republicans are leaning into evangelical priorities, Axios' Russell Contreras writes from a new survey.

  • The survey by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found 26% of Americans now consider themselves unaffiliated with a religion — 5 points higher than 2013.

Why it matters: That reflects a widening gap between how citizens and lawmakers see religion's role in society.

🔎 Zoom in: The GOP is dominated by white evangelicals who have successfully pushed to limit abortion, ban books and restrict LGBTQ+ rights.

  • But most people, especially younger Americans, are rapidly moving away from religions that endorse such policies.
  • Just a slim majority of Americans (53%) now say religion is important in their lives, down from 72% in 2013.
  • The findings suggest Republicans who focus on evangelicals are preaching to a loyal but dwindling audience.

🖼️ The big picture: Among Christian groups, Catholics as a whole continue to lose more members than they gain — and are seeing the largest declines in affiliation of any religious group.

  • In 2023, 18% of Americans said they grew up as white Catholics. But one-third said they no longer identify as members of their childhood faith.
  • 12% of Americans said they grew up as Hispanic Catholics. One-third of them also said they no longer identify as such.

The other side: The percentage of Americans who identify as white evangelical Protestants appears to have stabilized after years of decline.

  • Black Protestants and Jewish Americans have the highest retention rates of all religious groups.

Explore the data ... Keep reading.

2. 💰 Three presidents

Former President Obama, President Biden and former President Clinton at a fundraiser in Radio City Music Hall yesterday.
Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times. Used by kind permission

President Biden and former Presidents Obama and Clinton combined their gravitas to woo donors and energize the Democratic base with a massive star-studded fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall last night.

  • Why it matters: It was a show of Democratic unity and celebrity sizzle for Biden, who's four years older than Clinton. Biden was the alpha on a stage with two of the most gifted politicians of our lifetime.

More than 5,000 people attended the sold-out Manhattan event featuring Mindy Kaling, Stephen Colbert and Lizzo, Axios' Sareen Habeshian writes.

  • Tickets for the fundraiser ranged from $225 to $500,000. The campaign says it raised an eye-popping $25 million.

The night ended with moderator Stephen Colbert and Biden, Obama and Clinton wearing aviators. Biden said he's a man who "loves two things: Ray Ban sunglasses and ice cream."

Jason Bateman, Barack Obama, Will Arnett, Joe Biden, Sean Hayes and Bill Clinton at the taping of the Smartless podcast.
The three presidents taped an episode of the "SmartLess" podcast, hosted by comedians Jason Bateman (left), Will Arnett (center) and Sean Hayes. Photo: Biden for President

The mood was electric as Obama praised Biden's willingness to look for common ground and said, "That's the kind of president I want." Clinton said simply of the choices facing voters in 2024: "Stay with what works."

  • Biden went straight at Donald Trump, saying his expected GOP rival's ideas are "a little old and out of shape." (AP)

Keep reading.

3. 💪 Trump's flex

Former President Trump leaves yesterday's wake for slain NYPD officer Jonathan Diller in Massapequa, N.Y., on Long Island.
Former President Trump leaves yesterday's wake for slain NYPD officer Jonathan Diller in Massapequa, N.Y., on Long Island. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

As the Biden campaign touted last night's $25 million fundraiser as a political record, word leaked about a Trump event that organizers say will raise even more — at least $33 million.

  • Former President Trump will host donors April 6 at Mar-a-Lago for a fundraiser hosted by New York hedge fund billionaire John Paulson, who has been floated by Trump as a possible Treasury secretary, AP reports.

Co-chairs include Las Vegas-based businessman Robert Bigelow, casino mogul Steve Wynn and New York grocery billionaire John Catsimatidis.

  • Admission is $250,000 — or $814,600 to be named a "chairman."
  • Perks include a personalized copy of "Our Journey Together," Trump's coffee-table book of photos from his administration.

💬 "The response to our fundraising efforts has been overwhelming, and we've raised over $33 million so far," Paulson told the Financial Times.

  • "There is massive support amongst a broad spectrum of donors. The dinner is relatively small in nature, and we are almost at our cap."

4. 📸 1,000 words

Russia's President Vladimir Putin visits the 344th Army Aviation Centre of aircrews combat training and transition in Torzhok in the Tver region on March 27, 2024.
Photo: Sputnik via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin sits in the cockpit of a helicopter simulator Wednesday while visiting a military base in Torzhok in the Tver Oblast region, 150 miles northwest of Moscow.

  • Meeting with military pilots, he said Western-supplied F-16 fighters would be shot down if deployed in Ukraine.

Go deeper.

5. 🥽 2 weeks with Apple's Vision Pro

A view from the Vision Pro with a menu of digital icons overlaying pass-through video of a living room.
A view from the Vision Pro with a menu of digital icons overlaying video of a living room. Image: Apple

Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried spent two weeks wearing Apple's new Vision Pro headset. Here's her "Prompt" review for our daily Axios AI+ newsletter:

I've been waiting for the right opportunity to put Apple's $3,500 Vision Pro through its paces. A recent trip to D.C. seemed like a good chance to see how Apple's headset fares in everyday use.

  • Why it matters: The device offers a glimpse of an intriguing future. It's also still too quirky and pricey to recommend for most people.

✅ The best part: Being able to elegantly overlay a digital world on top of the real one. I'm always multitasking, and it's cool to have several giant displays in my field of view.

  • I'm sure I looked ridiculous on the flight. But I managed to drink tomato juice and eat breakfast without spilling, purchase in-flight Wi-Fi and start this article.
  • It was easy to multitask with "Inside Out" still playing as I opened various tabs and windows.

❌ The worst part: Living in the future is fun for a while — but starts to weigh on you, physically and literally.

  • The Vision Pro quickly feels heavy on your face.
  • Using it is also cognitively more complex than watching TV while working on a phone or laptop.

Read the full column.

6. 💊 Exclusive poll: U.S. backs abortion pill

Share who say they support obtaining abortion pills via select methods, by political party
Data: Axios/Ipsos. Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

More than 7 in 10 Americans support access to abortion pills — the subject of a major case before the Supreme Court, Axios' Adriel Bettelheim writes from a new Axios-Ipsos poll.

  • Why it matters: The findings suggest a decision that would overrule the FDA and limit access to the commonly used abortion pill mifepristone would be out of step with public sentiment.

By the numbers: There's widespread support for letting women obtain drugs for an abortion from their doctor or a clinic, with 72% supporting — including half of Republicans — and 26% opposed.

7. 🗞️ WSJ reporter detained 1 year

Wall Street Journal front page
Today's Wall Street Journal front page is completely devoted to Evan Gershkovich, with a blank space labeled: "HIS STORY SHOULD BE HERE." Via X

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained by Russian authorities one year ago today, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • The 32-year-old was arrested on espionage charges that he, the Journal and the U.S. government vehemently deny.

Why it matters: Gershkovich is the first American journalist to be arrested and held on spying charges in Russia since the Cold War.

  • The U.S. government has been negotiating with Russia to get Gershkovich out via a prisoner swap. Efforts to release him and U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan, who is also being held on espionage charges, have come up short.
  • Gershkovich's imprisonment and the government's subsequent struggles to get him out have deterred the Western press from working in Russia.

More from the Journal.

8. 🤠 1 for the road: Beyoncé day

The album cover for "Cowboy Carter"
Cover: Parkwood/Columbia/Sony

Beyoncé's highly anticipated new album — "Cowboy Carter" — has officially dropped, Axios' Jay Jordan and Kelly Tyko write.

Why it matters: Queen Bey's latest offering isn't her first foray into country music. It's her lengthiest country production to date, and highlights Black influences in the genre.

Boy, does it have the potential to break the internet:

  • The 27-song track list includes singles "Texas Hold 'Em" and "16 Carriages," which were released in February and have garnered hundreds of millions of plays on Spotify.
  • "Texas Hold 'Em" reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs, making Beyoncé the first Black woman to top the chart.

Also on the album: covers of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and The Beatles' "Blackbird."

📬 Please invite your friends to join AM.