Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More US voters say, "I don't go to church, and I vote"

NBC News online published an interesting piece today regarding voting and religion, in which they report that a growing number of US voters are calling themselves religiously unaffiliated. According to the report, 12 percent of the electorate this year (and in 2008) said they are not affiliated with any religious group, while 17 percent of voters in 2012 said they never attend church.

What is really interesting about these statistics is that 44 percent more of these religiously unaffiliated voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama than voted for Mitt Romney in the November presidential election. This is true even though 20 percent of these voters call themselves political conservatives and 40 percent self-identify as moderate. However, 66 percent of these voters say they believe that religious organizations are too involved in politics and 70 percent of them think churches are "too concerned with money and power".

So, maybe the high proportion of religiously unaffiliated voters who cast their ballots for Mr. Obama makes sense, especially considering that many of these voters are socially liberal despite half of them reporting that they think the federal government should be smaller and provide fewer public services. They don't, it seems, want the religious conservatives that the Republican Party courts to be in a position to set public social policies.

Maybe the Republicans should sit up and take note of these findings. Does the Republican leadership really think they are going to attract non-religious voters as long as they continue to cater to the religious right? Since the election, there has been much, and very public, discussion about how the Republican Party can attract more African-American voters and Hispanic voters, both very large and important voting blocs, because they know that they cannot expect to win elections if they ignore or alienate those constituencies. Why would they continue to think they can ignore or alienate a constituency, religiously unaffiliated voters, that has grown to roughly the same numbers as either of those groups?

Yet, I suspect that the Republican leadership will continue to ignore these non-religious voters in favor of their religiously conservative base. It will be interesting to see where that gets them in the next presidential election.

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