This isn’t news for any of us, but the media is finally taking notice of the fact that the “Nones” — those who are non-religious or don’t use any particular religious label — were as solid a voting bloc for President Obama as evangelical Christians have been for Republican candidates in the past:
“This really is a striking development in American politics,” says Gregory Smith of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. “There’s no question that the religiously unaffiliated are a very important, politically consequential group.”
“It was hard to think this was just Iowa,” [Iowa-based pollster J Ann] Selzer said. “And it wasn’t. One of the reasons Barack Obama won was that he had the ‘no religion’ vote by a huge margin.”
Nationally, Obama lost the Protestant vote by 15 points, won the Catholic vote by 2 points, and captured 70 percent of the “nones.”
One of the big questions I have now is: Will Democrats try to reach out to the religiously unaffiliated to get an even larger share of votes — or risk us not voting at all due to apathy? So far, they’ve just taken our votes for granted because it’s not like we had another viable candidate to vote for… and they probably thought that publicly reaching out to us would have alienated many religious voters in the process. Maybe there’s some truth to that. But if the Nones’ votes matter as much as the trends suggest, it may not matter if a few bigots are offended by the outreach to non-religious people.
The other big question is: Why is this happening? We can talk about the Democratic Party platform and their commitment (at least in theory) to social justice issues. But no conversation about the reasons for this trend is complete with talking about how the Christian Right has imploded over the years. By basically equating being a Christian with being a Republican, many on the Religious Right have turned off younger Christians, non-Christian Republicans, and Nones. It doesn’t help that they’ve doubled-down on the wrong side of the biggest social issues of our day. The Millennial generation, by and large, has no problem with marriage equality, women’s rights, etc. — which makes it very hard to defend being a Republican or a Christian. It’s just easier to say you’re not one of them.
That’s why we’re seeing more people who believe in God shed any sort of religious label — they’re Nones, too — and why more people are becoming non-religious as a whole.
All of this bodes well for the Democrats (and Independents). But unless they can show us why we should vote for them instead of just not voting for the Republican candidate, they’re wasting a golden opportunity.