More American voters than ever say they are not religious, making the religiously unaffiliated the nation's biggest voting bloc by faith for the first time in a presidential election year. This marks a dramatic shift from just eight years ago, when the non-religious were roundly outnumbered by Catholics, white mainline Protestants and white evangelical Protestants.
These numbers come from a new Pew Research Center survey, which finds that "religious 'nones,' who have been growing rapidly as a share of the U.S. population, now constitute one-fifth of all registered voters and more than a quarter of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters." That represents a 50 percent increase in the proportion of non-religious voters compared with eight years ago, when they made up just 14 percent of the overall electorate.
"In 2008, religious 'nones' were outnumbered or at parity with white mainline Protestants and white Catholics," the survey's lead researcher, Greg Smith, said in an interview. "Today, 'nones' outnumber both of those groups."
The growth of the non-religious -- about 54 percent of whom are Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 23 percent at least leaning Republican -- could provide a political counterweight to white evangelical Protestants, a historically powerful voting bloc for Republicans. In 2016, 35 percent of Republican voters identify as white evangelicals, while 28 percent of Democratic voters say they have no religion at all.
Of course as the article goes on to point out the Achilles heel for the non-religious politically is that most of us are non-joiners.
That means we do not have a group around which to organize, unlike religious groups which have "Get out the vote" or "Souls to the Polls" programs in place.
Which raises the question, how do we mobilize a voting demographic that are predisposed to resist being directed to do anything, by anyone?
But just imagine all that we could accomplish if we could answer that question.