10 December 2012

Influence of the "religiously unaffiliated" swing vote

Some surprising numbers from a column at NPR:
...as we close the book on the election, it bears noting that another less obvious bloc of key swing state voters helped the president win a second term. They're the "nones" — that's the Pew Research Center's shorthand for the growing number of American voters who don't have a specific religious affiliation. Some are agnostic, some atheist, but more than half define themselves as either "religious" or "spiritual but not religious..."

Their overwhelming support of Obama proved crucial in a number of swing states where the president lost both the Catholic and Protestant vote by single and low-double digits, but won the "nones" by capturing 70-plus percent of their votes...

Selzer tells us that in her last Iowa poll before Election Day, data she had compiled for the Des Moines Register showed that Obama was losing to GOP nominee Mitt Romney among both Protestant and Catholic voters. Those voters make up 88 percent of the state's electorate, yet her final numbers still had Obama leading Romney by 5 percentage points... What Selzer found was that though her polling showed Romney leading among Catholics by 14 points and among Protestants by 6 points, Obama was winning the "nones" by a 52-point margin...

In Ohio, Obama lost the Protestant vote by 3 points and the Catholic vote by 11, but he won the "nones" — 12 percent of the state's electorate — by 47 points.

— In Virginia, Obama lost Protestants by 9 points and Catholics by 10 points, but won 76 percent of the "nones," who were 10 percent of the electorate.

In Florida, Obama lost Protestants by 16 points and Catholics by 5 points, but captured 72 percent of the "nones." They were 15 percent of the electorate.

Similar results were seen in states including Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
More at the link, including this -
He cautions, however, against conflating the "nones" with nonbelievers. "Those two things are not the same," Smith says. The "nones' are certainly less religious than those who say they belong to a religious group, but many are also believers." The absence of a connection to an organized religion is not the same as the absence of a religious belief or practice," he says.


  1. I think, fairly or not, there's a long-standing assumption that Democratic candidates are forced to pretend to worship in order to pull over religious moderates, but that they don't really believe, while Repubs are assumed to be sincere about their faith.

    Careful, ags and athiests - if you consistently vote as a bloc you will always be marginalized and ignored by both parties. This has happened to blacks and Mormons for decades now.

    1. The difference is that Republicans court religious extremism while Democrats largely do not. This is why so many moderate religious people are turned off by right wing religious fanaticism. Furthermore, blacks vote for liberal candidates because liberals have historically been on the side of civil rights for all Americans while conservative candidates have not, and in many cases exhibit displays of open racism, as well as push racist policies. Blacks are not ignored by Republicans, they are vilified by them.

  2. Manpace, the Black churches are popularly Democrat.

  3. Naw. I call BS.

    The reason the Republicans thought their polls predicted a landslide was because of obsolete polling techniques. They were calling people on landlines. Who still has a landline? Old people. Conservative people. People who are clinging to the past. How many people under 35/40 do you know with a land line? I can't think of a single one. I haven't had one for years, and I'm in my late 40's.

    They simply were not polling a wide enough pool. And they can't. Do-Not-Call lists and prohibitions on calling mobile phones prevent pollsters from contacting the average younger voter via phone.

    1. I live in Pennsylvania and I was called on my cell phone two or three times in the month leading up to the election, and asked to participate in polls. It only took about 20 seconds, so I obliged.


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