The growth of secularism in the US is already having a profound impact on politics. While pundits have largely viewed the religious right as the only viable mobilizing force, the non-religious have quietly become the most important minority group in American politics. To give you some idea, above I plot the Obama vote in ’08 or ’12 from the GSS for Atheists and Agnostics versus others, “non-Theists” who are either atheist, agnostic, or “believe in a higher power but not a god”and respondents who don’t identify with a religion (“nones”). Across all three measures about 74% of the secular respondents chose Obama in the last election, while only about 54% of their alters reported voting for Obama.
To get a sense of what that means I chart out the percentage of Obama voters from this group, and compare it to two other influential minorities–African Americans and White sectarians voting for NObama. Atheists and agnostics make up 9.1% of the sample and a bit less of voters (9%), but they accounted for 12% of Obama’s votes, add in the other nontheists, and it is 26% of Obama’s take. None’s account for 23% of Obama voters—though they are only 18% of voters. African Americans make up about 15% of the GSS sample (16% of voters), and account for 27% of Obama’s vote. About 74% of white Sectarian Protestants voted for the NObama, and while they are about 13% of the sample, they were 23% of NObama voters—about the same importance for the Republicans as Nones are for Obama. But, since there are far more “nones” and non-theists than white sectarian Protestants, Obama wins! ha, ha, ha…..
So, to sum up, secular Americans are as important to the Democrats as African Americans, and they are not overlapping constituencies. And, secular Americans are at least as important for the Democratic vote as are white sectarian Christians for the Republican vote. The “religious factor” in American politics has changed. It is now a battle between secular rationalists and white fundamentalist Christians, and the rationalist can team up with the non-white religious folk! Why? Even though most African Americans and Latinos have relatively conservative religious commitments (Asians are almost uniformly secular, as I show in Changing Faith), they know that white Republican Christians are a bunch of racists. So, we see the new coalition….secular Americans and ethnics against Christian fundamentalists and plutocrats. I’m liking the numbers…..