ARIS’s ‘American Nones’ and Politics September 23, 2009

ARIS’s ‘American Nones’ and Politics

There are a few interesting thoughts to take from the new ARIS study on American “Nones” (people who aren’t affiliated with a particular religion*).  PZ Myers raised a point, and Hemant is posting his take a little later in the day.  I’ll try not to step on his toes, and focus on chart I found particularly interesting:


(I retyped the numbers for clarity, click for larger original)

These are the political affiliations of both the US population as a whole and the so-called “American Nones”.  American Nones were more ‘independent’ but over the last 18 years we see them disproportionately leaving the GOP.  I was talking to a reporter this morning about the findings, and suggested that perhaps the shift is due to the growing influence of the religious right on the Republican Party.  American Nones didn’t feel welcome in the increasingly religious climate.

But at the same time, we can’t be stereotyped as liberals.  We’re no more likely to be affiliated with the Democratic Party as the population as a whole is.  My guess is that we have a wide range of political views, but conservative ‘nones’ consider themselves Independent instead of choosing to affiliate with the GOP.

The lesson politicians need to learn is that when a party turns overtly religious and welcomes – nay, courts – religious fundamentalists, they are likely to turn away our growing constituency.


* One thing to keep in mind is that while atheists are Nones, not all Nones are atheists.  Atheists are a subset of Nones, so we don’t necessarily know what “atheists” answered.  More on this from Hemant later.

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  • Fentwin

    Nones? really? What a dismissive, condescending term.

    Besides, it sounds too much like “nuns”.

    I prefer “free – thinker” or “rationalist”. Hell, I’d rather be called a heathen than a “none”.

  • jemand

    also, what, the “nones” category doubled in that time? How much of the difference is in different new people joining vs. affiliated republicans leaving the party?

  • when you consider not much over 60% of the population votes, the largest potential ‘bloc’ are non-voters. for this analysis it would be interesting to know what percentage of nones actually vote.

  • Revyloution

    There is nothing like a good anecdote to back up data:

    I grew up reading Ayn Rand, and dissecting the lyrics of Neil Peart. The GOP was the obvious direction to throw my vote, as they supposedly stood for smaller government and greater individual freedoms. I’ve described myself through the years as a Republican, Libertarian and Objectivist.

    I watched the party change from having the religious as a subset I disagreed with, to becoming an entire party I could no longer identify with.

    I will continue to look for and support candidates that seek to protect our liberties. I just don’t see the GOP as filling that role any longer.

  • TXatheist

    Though I”m liberal I call myself Independent not a Democrat

  • Is there actual data for the political leanings of, specifically, atheists? I. Must. Have. That. Data.

  • I begrudgingly call myself a Democrat when forced to classify myself, but always with the caveat that I don’t really like the Democratic party (one reason being I’m *more* liberal than they are). They’re just the lesser of two evils. I have a feeling many “nones” would agree with me…

  • Miko

    I recently found polling data that only ~40% of Americans can name the two ruling parties without prompting. I’ve found that this fact has profoundly changed my interpretation of results like these.

    My theory is that most people develop a visceral hatred of one party or the other and then assume that they must be a member of the other party, without really knowing either party’s positions. From the sources we tend to read, secularists develop a hatred of the Republicans first, and a big chuck of us don’t study the issue enough to develop the corresponding hatred of the Democrats.

  • RobL

    I was talking to a reporter this morning about the findings, and suggested that perhaps the shift is due to the growing influence of the religious right on the Republican Party. American Nones didn’t feel welcome in the increasingly religious climate

    No Shit. The GOP has committed religious suicide.

  • NeuroLover

    I’m right exactly there with you, Revyloution. 🙂

  • Jeff

    I think it’s interesting that you make a point to say that the “nones” cannot be classified as liberals or democrats. While that is true, it is also quite evident from the data presented that the shift you were talking about in the first paragraph was from the Republican party to the Democratic party. So I would say the real take away is not the idependantness of the “nones” but the new (and apparantly growing) democraticness of the “nones”

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