This is a guest post by Dr. Juhem Navarro-Rivera. He’s the Political Director and Managing Partner for Socioanalítica Research LLC.
For more than a decade, I have been chronicling the growth of the secular population, focusing my research particularly on their political behavior. We know that most secular voters in the U.S. vote for Democratic Party presidential candidates. We also know that secular people’s policy preferences and ideological views are to the left of the general population.
What we haven’t known is if secular people actually form a coherent voting bloc.
They may vote for the same candidates and hold similar positions on issues, but their identities and beliefs are too different to be treated as a united front.
The 2020 Secular Voices Survey just released by my firm, Socioanalítica Research, finds that former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic Party candidate, leads Republican incumbent President Donald Trump by eight percentage points (53-45) among registered voters. Biden leads 68-30 among secular voters but is virtually tied with Trump among religious voters. (Trump leads this population 50-49.)
Secular voters, who account for 30% of Biden’s support, are essentially providing him the edge in an election in which religious voters are evenly divided.
Secular voters are behaving like a bloc, more this election than ever before. They report similar levels of support for Biden regardless of their preferred secular identifier or even beliefs regarding the existence of God. The range of support for Biden goes from a low of 65% among voters with an “atheist” secular identity to 78% among those with an “agnostic” identity. Seventy-one percent of people who identify as “spiritual but not religious,” the most common identity among secular voters, also support Biden.
When taking into account belief in God, a major source of disagreement among secular Americans, the differences in voting preference are negligible. Sixty-three percent of those who say “there is no such thing” as God support Biden. So do 68% of those with agnostic beliefs (“there is no way to know” or “I’m not sure”) and 70% of secular people who believe in “a higher power” or in a “personal God.”
The cohesion among secular voters comes from this community’s shared respect for science. A majority of secular voters (61%) think that “general disregard for scientists and experts” is a major problem in the country today while only a plurality (48%) of religious voters think the same.
25% of secular voters say that climate change is a major issue for their vote. Conversely, only 16% of religious voters report climate change as one of their top three issues. Most voters, including secular voters, are concerned about the pandemic, the economy, and healthcare.
In other questions regarding the importance of science, secular Americans also stand out from the crowd. Without major distinctions about identity, 69% of these voters believe that “natural disasters as a result of climate change” is a major problem facing the country. Two thirds of secular voters (68%) favor removing religious exemptions to vaccination, while 50% of religious voters want these to remain.
Secular people are united through their common trust in science as a guide for public policy. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis highlights the need for a government that makes decisions based on scientific expertise and not on the whims of an uninformed and uninterested president. Secular voters, regardless of their identity or beliefs, clearly believe that it is time to place knowledge before ideology. Science is the key to building a strong secular bloc.