The Demographic that Should Keep Rove Awake at Night


Have the religiously unaffiliated triumphed as a force in American politics?

Imagine a demographic that has doubled its share of the population over the past two decades, is up by 25 percent over the past four years, and now accounts for as many as one in five Americans. Imagine that this demographic votes disproportionately for one political party—to the tune of 70 percentfor Obama versus 26 percent for Romney in the 2012 election. Sounds like a demographic that ought to be of interest to politicians, journalists, and activists, right?

That demographic consists of people who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or religiously unaffiliated—the “nones,” as they’re sometimes called. And it hasn’t attracted anywhere near the attention it deserves in the postgame analysis of the 2012 election.

A quick Google search turns up 64,000 results concerning the GOP’s “Latino problem” that became evident in exit poll data on Election Day. Latinos represented around 10 percent of the electorate in 2011, up from nine percent in 2008, and they voted for Obama at a rate of 71 percent. But it’s the nones that should be keeping Karl Rove up at night. Pew put them at 12 percent of the electorate in its exit poll data, and at 19.6 percent in its earlier general survey. (The difference appears to have more to do with polling methodology than with voting habits.)

The Public Religion Research Institute, in a studypublished on November 15, pegs the religiously unaffiliated at 16 percent of the electorate—and they figure that 78 percent of the category went for Obama. Crucially, like Latinos, the nones are young. One in three Americans under 30 are religiously unaffiliated—four times the rate for the over-65 cohort that keeps Rove in business. This isn’t a trickle, it’s a tsunami.

Written By: Katherine Stewart
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  1.   – ” … it hasn’t attracted anywhere near the attention it deserves in the post-game analysis of the 2012 election.”

    Yeah, because who in the None camp is beating a path to the parties front doors.


  2. Karl Rove is himself an atheist.  Religious faith and political persuasion need not be so mutually dependent.

  3. Perhaps not on a personal level, but nationally there is a correlation. And when hunting for votes, you go for big numbers.

  4. I read recently that many polls are conducted at churches.  With this in mind, I’d speculate that this number of unaffiliated voters is actually a bit higher.

    Also, @rdfrs-7287abb9b5c7be9c13722e1dfb0be8d5:disqus  it is not in the nature of unaffiliated people to organize.  It is just not our mindset, so I think the organization of such a group is a bit of a longshot.  But, hey…. I am in.

  5. it is not in the nature of unaffiliated people to organize

    Reminds me…

    The meeting of the Apathy Party has been cancelled due to lack of interest.

    The meeting of the Procrastination Party has been postponed until next week.  Or whenever.

    The meeting of the Atheist Party will be held next Tuesday, God willing.

    The meeting of the Agnostic Party may have been cancelled, nobody knows for sure.

    The meeting of the Anarchist Party hasn’t even been scheduled,  due to a lack of organization.

  6. Of course they’re mutually dependent. Stupid, bigoted religious nuts are going to align with the political party of stupid, bigoted nuts.

  7. @rdfrs-d10c51cc1b06acd0fae484b95e9abb96:disqus  your post (for a twisted reason) reminds me of a great book by Chuck Palahniuk.  It is called “Choke” and I recommend it (and everything he has written) highly.  The main character of the book goes to sex addicts anonymous meetings to pick up women because they are “sure things”.  It is funny as hell.  He is the sponsor of the new members and he is banging them in the bathroom…..

    Palahniuk is one of the very best modern fiction writers.

  8. Many of the over 65’s were once very liberal, perhaps even more liberal than your average young person… There will likely be a drift back to the right as young people age. However, with the next generation of children, hopefully the nones keep on increasing…

  9. That’s very true Deep, but that doesn’t mean that they drift back to religion. My mum (who’s 67) has definitely drifted towards the right from her younger liberal views, but she still despises organised religion with a passion.

  10.  Yup, and he better hurry up and plant his flag on it if he wants any credit. Such work is important and forms the future, but the death of absurd myths is inevitable thanks to technology.

  11. I understand the challenges Sean Faircloth is faced with,i also understand he is the perfect man for the job.I’ m more hopeful than ever.   

  12. Watching the slow death of christianity really warms my heart. To think this barbaric, bigoted ideology is losing the culture war puts a big smile on my face. May it go the way of mithra, gone and forgotten.

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