Are Atheists the New Swing Vote?


It’s an interesting question with no good answer because Pew classes together everyone from atheists to unaffiliated in a single category.

In Virginia, Obama lost Protestants by 9 points and Catholics by 10 points, but won 76 percent of the “nones,” who were 10 percent of the electorate.

In Florida, Obama lost Protestants by 16 points and Catholics by 5 points, but captured 72 percent of the “nones.” They were 15 percent of the electorate.

Similar results were seen in states including Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

Selzer tells us that in her last Iowa poll before Election Day, data she had compiled for the Des Moines Register showed that Obama was losing to GOP nominee Mitt Romney among both Protestant and Catholic voters.

Those voters make up 88 percent of the state’s electorate, yet her final numbers still had Obama leading Romney by 5 percentage points.

“I see this in the data, and give a shout out to Michelle,” Selzer says, referring to her research assistant, Michelle Yeoman.

“How is this possible?” Selzer recalls saying. “I was pretty much awestruck.”

What Selzer found was that though her polling showed Romney leading among Catholics by 14 points and among Protestants by 6 points, Obama was winning the “nones” by a 52-point margin.

Obama did lose religious voters in swing states, but not by a large enough margin.  Irreligious voters are less of a group and more of a symptom. But they are also a reminder that this is not an economic debate, but a culture war, and that the social issues cannot be detached from the political issues.

  • Correction

    Yes, rejection of religion is a "symptom" – a symptom of the human intellect's tendency to favor reason over nonsense in the long run.

    • tagalog

      Yes, the tendency to favor reason and to downplay religion was seen a number of times during the 20th Century. Interestingly, those societies that chose to favor reason over religion in 3 or 4 cases wound up slaughtering scores of millions of people in the name of their particular rational scheme.

      Societies based upon some rational plan killed more people in 100 years than religion has in 2000 years, a thousand times over. Including Islam.

    • Mary Sue

      There's been significant amounts of slaughter conducted in the name of "reason" that would make slaughter in the name of religion blush.

      • tagalog

        For example, the system known as Marxism, that is dependent on a claimed rational approach to history, is estimated to have killed somewhere between a low number of 80,000,000 and 120,000,000 between 1917 and the present. Soviet Union: about 14,000,000 (1931-1934); between 700,000 and 1,000,000 in 1937-38, then about 9,000,000 in the gulag. Total: about 23,000,000 low estimate. About 1,500,000 died between 1918 and 1922 in the Russian Civil War and the 1921 Famine.

        About 27,000,000 killed in the epic struggle between the rational system of Nazism vs. the rational system of Marxist Communism.

        Nazism (a system grounded in eugenic theory) killed at least 11,000,000 Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, mental defectives, Slavs, and Russians for ideological reasons.

        Chinese Communism killed between 38,000,000 and 45,000,000 for ideological reasons in the Great Leap Forward (1959-1963) and I don't know how many in the Cultural Revolution (1968-1969).

        The Communist Khmer Rouge killed at least 1,500,000 (and maybe as many as 3,000,000) for the sake of Marxist-grounded agrarian reform.

        I don't know how many died in the Mexican Revolution (1910-1927) or in Central America for/against Communism.

  • tuffone3

    This is nothing but the latest lie to distract people from the real problem. It's not the economy; it's not themuslims; it's not the democrats/republicans/independents/tea party. It's apostasy. The cure is not found in men, it is found in the God/man, Jesus. Repent.

    • Lazerbenabba

      Why is it that this irrelevant spouting of nonesense with reference to a God of any complexion appeals to otherwise sane individuals. I am assuming that you are a sane person and if so may I suggest that you reexamine your thought processes because they are sadly lacking in in reality. What has any God/Jesus etc ever done that has benefited humanity. Oh, I forgot; the Spanish inquisition, the Hundred years war, the 1st/2nd world wars, the perenial conflict between every religion, the hatred and killings even between the same religions of the same persuasion but different sects etc. etc. Please persuade me with logic that you are correct, as millenia have clearly shown that you are implacably wrong.

      • tagalog

        Well, you might tote up all the religious hospitals, the orphanages, the care centers for pregnant mothers, the charities, the religious teachers (like the Jesuits), against those types of charities run by the atheists and the rationalists.

        The Spanish Inquistion is estimated to have killed 5,000 people between 1492 and the end of the Inquisition in the early 19th Century.

        Who was it who fought the Hundred Years War? What church?

        How are the First and Second World Wars laid at the doorstep of the worship of God?

        How often do people from one religion kill one another outside of Arabic Islam killing of people (a phenomenon that is just as attributable to Arabic racism as it is to religion)? Since, say, 1500?

        • tagalog

          I forgot to mention the invention of the university system, including the rational basis as well as the religious underpinnings of enlightened inquiry, a creation that was unique in Christianity and is now copied all over the world. The creation of the universities was not secular, it was entirely the product of European Christianity and was done so as to provide a setting for all who could afford to come to the universities, religious and secular alike, to study Aristotle. I think you could call the universities a net benefit for the entire f**king world. Despite the reductionism to rational inquiry that the universities have recently limited themselves to in the past century or so.

          Maybe it wasn't the Hundred Years' War you were talking about, which was primarily between French and English kings for dynastic power, but the Thirty Years' War, which was prompted in part by religious rivalry and the Reformation.

      • JacksonPearson

        Tell us, exactly what have Satan done to benefit humanity?

        • tagalog

          Leaving Satan aside, how many atheist hospitals exist? Any Rationalist Health Centers around? Atheist hospices?

          I've always thought that the atheists and rationalists come up a bit short on the caritas front, unlike the Christian religion.

          But when it comes time to accuse, you can always find the atheists and rationalists -who won't lift a finger for the next guy- casting aspersions on the religious who actually do the work in -and fund- the caring enterprises.

          • JacksonPearson

            "how many atheist hospitals exist?"
            Hmm, lots of Planned Murderhood abortion clinics come close!

            Atheists continuously bash God, Christ, and perpetually rant about a separation of church and state, but nary a peep against Satan!

  • Questions

    I think it's fair to say that atheists are a subset of the swing vote. Fact: Surveys show that atheists and other freethinkers (agnostics, Deists, Unitarians, Jewish Reconstructionists, etc.) are overwhelmingly white. And because the swing vote is likewise — there effectively is no Hispanic or black swing vote — atheists tend to be more likely to cross over party lines.

    Most atheists are liberal, but a surprising number are on the Right. Some of the latter are of the Ayn Rand/Austrian economics hardcore libertarian variety. Others are decentralist conservatives skeptical of God = Country militancy, like Jeffrey Hart and the late Robert Nisbet. Either way, they shouldn't be written off.

  • Lazerbenabba

    Re Tagalog; the references of the persecutions and wars that were made only represented a fraction of the inhumanity inflicted upon ourselves. The point that I was making is that GODS of all shades with their representative religions were unable to to stop these tragedies. Where is the compassionate all caring GOD, nowhere. I almost forgot, of course we have free will. Is it not odd that this free will exerted by humanity is only applicable with disaster and only goodness is presented with the good will of GOD. I do not think so. When a natural disaster occurs and thousands die, but if an individual is pulled from the rubble this a miracle perpetrated by this almighty being what about all the other poor s.ds. All I can say is that with all that which humanity has suffered and yet survived it is no thanks to the p.ss poor efforts of these mythical beings. Your references to the hospitals , orphanages etc. are not provided as a consequence of religious piety but more often than not, in spite of it.

    • Bill Speers

      It’s against Jewish theology to judge God by human standards. In Job, God says He was before you were, and His ways are not to be questioned.

      It’s quite natural for humans to attribute divine assistance to good things happening, and it’s also quite common for humans to ask why God is punishing them when bad things happen. That’s human nature. Perhaps you are a believer in human progress, and would downplay such chauvinistic concepts as “human nature.”

      • Lazerbenabba

        At no time do I expect nor even consider the concept of punishment by any GOD; it is a total irrelevance. You are mistaken in the interpretation of what I have said. May I suggest that you read my comments correctly. I do not attribute anything to a so called divine being. You are, as so many faith believers start from a stand point of an assumption that everybody else defers to a belief system as the facile comment re JOB and GOD in perpetuity. I certainly do accept the vagaries of "human nature" and applaud our inherent ability to overcome adversity, that is our genius. What on earth were you trying to say re military chaplains; I was not aware that any blame was laid at there door, merely emphasising the hypocrisy of their representing the righteousness of their GOD.

  • Lazerbenabba

    Re Tagalog; Almost without exception and in particular the last few wars all have had their God representatives in the form of military chaplains, rabbis, mullahs etc. They all have this firm belief that GOD is on their side how do you square this circle. They all cannot be right,but of course schizophrenia is not only the province of the psychotic. I am quite sure that 6 million of my fellow Jews would if they had known better would have wished that their GOD had left them alone without relying on its goodwill to save them. Thank goodness the Israel of today is protecting itself and giving pride and security to Jews the world over. The internicine animosity that is shown by Christians is no example that any sane people would wish to emulate, unless you want walls segregating the communities as in North and Southern Ireland. Their bigotry is there for all to see.

    • Bill Speers

      Military chaplains are responsible for the “last few wars?” Because “God is on our side?” Really? Ooookay.

    • Mary Sue

      The Northern/Southern Ireland thing is as much about political things (perhaps even more) than it is about religious differences. Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants didn't get into fights because of their differences religiously, they got into fights because the Protestants supported English Rule which was, durrrr, PROTESTANT. Irish Catholics began associating Protestantism with England and the resulting domination and repression.