Q: I keep hearing different estimates being cited about how many Christians there are in Egypt. What are the facts?
A: The numbers are debated. Media reports, sometimes citing officials of the Coptic Orthodox Church, frequently say that Christians make up 10% or more of the country's approximately 80 million people. But researchers at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life have been unable to find any Egyptian census or large-scale survey that substantiates such claims.
The highest share reported in the past century was in 1927, when the census found that 8.3% of Egyptians were Christians. In each of seven subsequent censuses, the Christian share of the population gradually shrank, ending at 5.7% in 1996. Religion data has not been made available from Egypt's most recent census, conducted in 2006. But in a large, nationally representative 2008 survey -- the Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey, conducted among 16,527 women ages 15 to 49 -- about 5% of the respondents were Christian. Thus, the best available census and survey data indicate that Christians now number roughly 5% of the Egyptian population, or about 4 million people. The Pew Forum's recent report on The Future of the Global Muslim Population estimated that approximately 95% of Egyptians were Muslims in 2010.