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Courting the 'None' Vote

Courting the 'None' Vote

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The growing number of religiously unaffiliated Americans presents potential challenges for both political parties, but their presence may also be beneficial.
The growing number of religiously unaffiliated Americans presents potential challenges for both political parties, but their presence may also be beneficial.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Oct 31, 2012
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1Center or American Progress | Courting the ‘None’ Vote
Courting the ‘None’ Vote
 The Religiously Unaffiliated and the Futureof American Politics
Jack Jenkins November 1, 2012
Introduction
Te Pew Forum on Religion and Public Lie released a repor in early Ocober eniled“Nones on he Rise: One-in-Five Aduls Have No Religious Aliaion.
1
Te survey included a variey o inormaion abou American religious rends, bu reporers werequick o highligh he mos sriking saisic: Te number o Americans who haveno paricular religious preerence—someimes called he religiously unaliaed, heunchurched, or jus “nones”—is seadily increasing wihin he Unied Saes, wih one inve Americans now claiming o eschew organized religion.Tis saisic is surprising because he Unied Saes has long been an anomaly wihinhe developed world when i comes o religion. Unlike regions such as Wesern Europe,he Unied Saes has no “secularized” as i has aged. Insead, American ciizens haveconinued o exhibi an unusually high level o religious observance over ime, a phe-nomenon ha coninues o shape our counrys culural and poliical milieu.Unsurprisingly, saisics rom he Pew survey and he even more recen “American Values Survey,” produced by he Public Religion Research Insiue, are raising eyebrowsamong American aih communiies,
2
spurring many church leaders o posi heoriesabou he cause o he decline and oer plans on how o sem he ide.
3
Bu he rise o he “nones” isn’ a problem jus or priess and pasors—i also poseschallenges or many poliical sraegiss. Te “nones,” now a group o roughly 46 millionpeople (19.6 percen o he U.S. populaion), have become an imporan voing blocha ounumbers boh whie mainline Chrisians (15 percen) and whie evangelicals(19 percen).
4
Consequenly, several wriers noe ha he rise o he religiously una-liaed, voers who end o skew young and liberal (only 11 percen are Republican orRepublican-leaning voers), could creae a “secularism problem” or he RepublicanPary and is evangelical Chrisian base.
5
 
2Center or American Progress | Courting the ‘None’ Vote
Bu while much has been made o he “nones” and heir impac on he righ, here has been less alk abou wha sraegies eiher pary could use o earn heir suppor. Te issueis a pressing one or many poliical sraegiss: Te Pew survey indicaes ha while he vasmajoriy o Democras sill claim a aih radiion (76 percen), he religiously unaliaednow make up 24 percen o Democraic and Democraic-leaning regisered voers in heUnied Saes.
6
(see Figure 1) Tis makes he “nones” he single-larges bloc o Democraic voers when people are broken down by religious aliaion. And he “nones” are poised orepresen 16 percen o likely voers in he 2012 presidenial elecion.
7
Tis realiy raises several quesions abou he uure o American poliics, paricularly  when i comes o campaign acics and coaliion building. How, or example, can poliicalcampaigns appeal successully o his demographic? Furhermore, how will he increase inreligiously unaliaed voers aec he ragile nework o alliances wihin each pary? Willhe demands o he unchurched rub oher secions o he pary aihul he wrong way?Below we oer more inormaion and a ew suggesions or how poliical sraegiss can boh engage his group and also mainain pary uniy.
Who exactly are the “nones”?
 A he mos basic level, “nones” are people who answer he quesion “Wha is your reli-gious aliaion?” by saying ha hey have no paricular religious atachmen. Bu a lack o religious aliaion does no mean all “nones” deny a higher power. On he conrary,only abou one-hird claim o be aheiss and agnosics, according o he PRRI survey.
8
  And alhough he PRRI repor breaks he unaliaed up ino “aheiss/agnosics,“seculars,” and “unatached believers,” he later wo caegories appear o be airly similar when i comes o personal religious belie: Only 25 percen o “secular” Americans deny he exisence o a higher being,
9
and he majoriy o he unaliaed overall—a ull 68percen—claim o believe in God.
10
In addiion, while hey migh no show up or church on Sunday, synagogue onSaurday, or mosque on Friday, sizable blocs o he unaliaed express endencies hamany would consider religious: 58 percen claim a “deep connecion wih naure and heearh,” 37 percen claim o be “spiriual,” and more han 20 percen say hey pray daily.
11
Te unchurched are no necessarily anireligious, eiher. According o he Pew survey,he overwhelming majoriy o he religiously unaliaed (78 percen) hink religiousorganizaions bring people ogeher and help srenghen communiy bonds, and roughly he same percenage (77 percen) hink religion plays an imporan role in helping careor he world’s poor.
12
Bu he “nones” dier sarkly rom he general populace when i comes o he role o reli-gion in poliics. Whereas wo-hirds o he public hinks i is imporan or a presiden
FIGURE 1
The rise of the “nones”
Religious composition of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered votersin the United States*
*Numbers do not add to 100 percent due torounding.Source: Pew Forum on Religion and PublicLie, “‘Nones’ on the Rise: One-in-Five AdultsHave No Religious Afliation” (2012), availableathttp://www.peworum.org/uploadedFiles/  Topics/Religious_Afliation/Unafliated/ NonesOnTheRise-ull.pd.
Religiouslyunaffliated
24%
Black Protestant
16%
Other
18%
White mainlineProtestant
14%
White evangelicalProtestant
9%
Hispanic Catholic
5%
White Catholic
13%
 
3Center or American Progress | Courting the ‘None’ Vote
o have srong religious belies, only one-hird o he unaliaed, he majoriy o whomare Democras, eel he same way. Te unaliaed are also more likely han he generalpublic o say ha churches should say ou o poliical maters (66 percen versus 54percen).
13
(see Figure 2) And alhough only 38 percen o he general populaion is uncomorable wih a polii-cian who alks abou his or her religious belies, exacly hal o he unaliaed ake issue wih a vocally pious candidae.
14
Demographically speaking, he religiously unaliaed are simulaneously unusu-ally diverse and srikingly homogenous. Te Pew survey repored ha he increase in“nones” ranscends income bracke, educaion level, and geographic region, dispellinghe sereoype ha people abandon religion because o higher educaion, increased wealh, or urbanizaion.
15
Ye he survey also ound ha he religiously unaliaed areoverwhelmingly whie, wih only negligible increases among Arican Americans in hepas ew years. Many are also young—roughly one in hree Americans under 30 (32percen) now claim o have no religious aliaion.
16
Te average unaliaed voer can hus be undersood as a young whie Democra o undeermined income and educaion who doesn’ necessarily dislike religion bu isuncomorable wih is role in he public square.
Courting the “none vote”: Preaching to the choir?
 A rs glance, he growh o he religiously unaliaed would appear o be a windall orhe Democraic Pary. When speaking a he Religion Newswriers Associaion Conerencewo weeks ago, John Green, proessor o poliical science a he Universiy o Akron in Ohio,noed ha he “nones” could very well become “as imporan o he Democraic Pary coali-ion as he radiionally religious are o he Republican Pary coaliion.”
17
o be sure, he unaliaed don’ seem o need much convincing when i comes oendorsing many ideals associaed wih he Democraic Pary. In ac, hey are wice aslikely o describe hemselves as poliical liberals han conservaives, and solid majoriiessuppor legal aborion (72 percen) and same-sex marriage (73 percen).
18
(see Figure 3on ollowing page)Te PRRI American Values Survey, urhermore, ound ha he unchurched over- whelmingly suppor increasing axes on he wealhy (70 percen).
19
Tereore, hedriving values o his group are no much dieren han hose o mos liberals: Teunaliaed appear o be more passionae han mos Americans in heir suppor orDemocraic causes such as marraige equaliy and legal aborion.
FIGURE 2
The “nones” opposechurch political activism
Percentage of Americans whobelieve churches should stayout of political matters
Source: Pew Forum on Religion and PublicLie, “‘Nones’ on the Rise: One-in-Five AdultsHave No Religious Afliation” (2012), availableathttp://www.peworum.org/uploadedFiles/  Topics/Religious_Afliation/Unafliated/ NonesOnTheRise-ull.pd.
010%20%30%40%50%60%70%80%90%100%U.S.generalpublicUnaffiliated Affliliated51%54%66%

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