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Survey: Religiously unaffiliated, minority Christians propelled Obama’s victory
A quarter of President Barack Obama's supporters were religiously unaffiliated, the Public Religion Research Institute says.
November 15th, 2012
02:24 PM ET

Survey: Religiously unaffiliated, minority Christians propelled Obama’s victory

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama’s victory relied largely on two dramatically different religious coalitions minority Christians and those with no religion according to a survey released Thursday.

“This presidential election is the last in which a white Christian strategy will be considered a plausible path to victory,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, which conducted the survey. “The American religious and ethnic landscape is becoming increasingly diverse, and any campaigns relying on outdated maps are destined to lose their way.”

One-in-four Obama voters were religiously unaffiliated, the second-largest “religious” demographic in the president’s coalition, according to the study (PDF). Minority Christians consisting of black, Asian, Hispanic and mixed-race Americans made up 31% of Obama’s coalition, the largest religious group.

Among major religious demographics, Obama struggled most with white Christians, including Catholics, mainline Protestants and evangelical Protestants. When these three groups were added up, they accounted for just 35% of Obama’s religious coalition. In comparison, Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s coalition was overwhelmingly white and Christian, with 79% of Romney voters identifying as such.

The Public Religion Research Institute numbers flesh out exit polls released after Election Day. According to those numbers, 70% of the religiously unaffiliated supported Obama, compared with 26% who backed Romney. Ninety-five percent of black Protestants voted for Obama, according to the exit polls, while 75% of Hispanic Catholics supported the president.

Romney, according to the exit polls, overwhelmingly won white evangelical Christians (79% voted for him) and white Catholics (59% voted for him).

The rise of the religiously unaffiliated has been a major recent trend. A survey by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released this year found that the fastest-growing "religious" group in America is made up of people with no religion at all. According to the survey, 20% of adult Americans have no religious affiliation.

At an event announcing the Pew results, senior research adviser John Green said the growing political power of the unaffiliated within the Democratic Party could become similar to the power the religious right acquired in the GOP in the 1980s.

The 2012 election results have some political experts questioning whether the religious right’s influence is fading.

The Rev. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted after the election that the results show “we are witnessing a fundamental moral realignment of the country.”

Conservative evangelist Franklin Graham, CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and son of the Rev. Billy Graham, told CNN that while he doesn’t believe the movement is fading, “there is a lot of work we need to do.”

“I just think there are a lot of conservative Christians who did not vote for whatever reason,” Franklin Graham said.

Like Graham, Jones said the legalization of same-sex marriage by ballot initiative in three states last week shows that America is changing.

“For the first time tonight, same-sex marriage has been passed by popular vote in Maine and Maryland,” Jones said last week. “The historic nature of these results are hard to overstate. Given the strong support of younger Americans for same-sex marriage, it is unlikely this issue will reappear as a major national wedge issue.”

The results of the Public Religion Research Institute survey were based on 1,410 telephone interviews in both Spanish and English conducted between November 7 and Sunday. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

CNN’s Dan Gilgoff contributed to this report.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Catholic Church • Christianity • Faith • Politics • Same-sex marriage

soundoff (1,305 Responses)
  1. gary

    god is pretend ... an ancient myth. Religion is BS and makes people nuts

    November 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Far more ancient that religious folks care to grasp or admit.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • Tessel

      Blow the typical Christian's mind...tell them the Bible wasn't written in English.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  2. Former Republican

    And I am one of those former "white republicans" who is agnostic and voted for Obama...keep it up christards.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • waltsp

      In the last seconds of your life, you will be praying for forgiveness.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      @waltsp

      Forgiveness for what?

      November 15, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  3. Georgia Christian

    I'm a fundamentalist Christian myself, and i voted for President Obama. As i read the posts here, I'm noticing very simplistic and caricatured representations of both Obama voters and religious people, and this isn't good. Conservatives: you may disagree with liberals, but you're wrong when you depict them as bad people. Atheists: you may disagree with me about God, but you're wrong when you depict religious people as idiots. There is no excuse for belligerent insults. Leave that to the 10-year-olds on the school playgrounds.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • I Am God

      I apologize. My dad is a Christian and he isn't an idiot. When you see me use the term idiot, it is in reference to those extremists.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Religious people are idiots. I can easily prove that.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Colin

      The unfortunate truth is that there is a strong correlation between the less one can or does think and the more religious they are. Religion tends to require a deep ignorance of science and natural history.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • MCR

      I think some of it really is people being simplistic, but also a lot is just that posting on boards like this can become a game to pass time and people are goofing a bit and exagerrating their positions. A lot of folks that make extreme comments one way or another in posts like this are just trying out ideas either for size or to see what will get them responses.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      You're not an idiot, you just accepted a highly-evolved sort of self-replicating and self-reinforcing set of ideas. You can break free of it. Many do.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Florida

      I'm not sure if religious people are idiots but you sure aren't very intelligent. Religion was created by humans with no education and no understanding of what we now call basic knowledge . Then it was taken control of by the ruling class to control populations, murder, and enslave people. Now the year is 2012. The world is not flat. Dreams are not communication from a being called God who will judge you. If you don't wash your hands bacteria can kill you, not God or Satan, or Mohammed, or Allah.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • GodIsLoveIsBlindIsRayCharlesIsGod

      I don't think "idiot" is a good way to describe Christians. I've known many very intelligent Christians. If anything, ignoramus is much more accurate. Christianity was created in a time when 85 to 90 percent of the people were illiterate. A modern day eight year old knows more about how the world works than the inventors of Christianity. In a time when so much information is so readily and easily obtained one would have to be willfully "ignorant" to carry on such an outdated belief system.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  4. vatomahalo

    Best news ever. Religion has no use in politics. Never has and never will. Yes, live life to the fullest, have common sense and just treat people right. No bad karma, no religion needed. We are all old enough to vote, no one tells us what to do with religion either. The votes are in! Das it!

    November 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  5. MashaSobaka

    I'd say that Republicans could learn from this – that if you try to force non-Christians to abide by Christian fundamentalism then you're going to have some problems with your election – but judging by some of the post-election comments coming out of their party I don't think they're capable of learning from anything. I've met hamsters with a better grasp of cause and effect. Almost makes me sad for the poor fanatics. ...Almost.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  6. Mosesthejew

    The message is keep RELIGION OUT OF POLITICS! How is anyone to believe persons who put winning above even their Christian Moral Values. Let's see we had Newt G., Billy graham , Huckabeeee all touting the evil of Romney and his Morman
    cult, yet they all through their beliefs and values under the Bus in hope this man they had no faith in would defeat our Christian President! Doesn't look like any of these guys would have stood up for Jesus against the Romans! RELIGION AND POLITICS, WATER AND OIL THEY JUST DON'T MIX!

    November 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  7. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Obama has won. It's a shame there's no frontier for Mitt to head out for. I could see him as sort of like Aaron Burr. Maybe he could lead Texas to independence from Obama's godless socialism. Create a homeland for the Right-thinking people who made wealth possible in this country. Yes, Texas is for Romney. Wild horses couldn't drag me to Texas.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • I Am God

      No such thing as right wing wealth creativity. Everyone has put money into this country, which is what made it wealthy. Stop acting like your better then other people.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • tony

      Why doesn't he just go to heaven? And all his followers. It's so much more wonderful there.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  8. wowzah

    Evangelicals act like God's policemen. Please let God do his job you do yours evangelicals which is preach the word and teach the people.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • I Am God

      Exactly

      November 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • tony

      Just don't "teach" any under age, innocent children. That should be a major felony, just like any other child abuse.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • gary

      ancient myth and folklore .... no deities or demons ... religion is myth

      November 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Jenny

      Police? Ha. More like Mall Cops, or Hall Monitors.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  9. Florida

    I can't fathom how anyone could vote for a person who believes in Mormonism. The book of Mormon has been proven to be completely made up by the fraudulent John Smith. Mitt Romney never had a chance because of that.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • tony

      You are just one step away from complete understanding. ALL religions are made up fantasies.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Tessel

      True that. Mormonism is as scary as Scientology and they're campaigning extra hard for acceptance will all sorts of ads. I make it a point to educate myself about all religions, and I immediately lose any good feeling and willingness to be in the same room as another person if I learn they ascribe to the LDS.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      Um, no. His Mormonism wasn't the problem. The fact that he wanted non-Christians to abide by Christian dogma, however, was a BIG problem. I wouldn't have cared if he worshiped sewer rats so long as he didn't demand that I do the same.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Florida

      "MashaSobaka

      Um, no. His Mormonism wasn't the problem. The fact that he wanted non-Christians to abide by Christian dogma, however, was a BIG problem. I wouldn't have cared if he worshiped sewer rats so long as he didn't demand that I do the same."

      I would never put anyone in charge of national security and our troops lives who worships rats or anything. PLEASE " MashaSobaka" don't ever vote again until you get some sort of education or at least common sense.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • I don't THINK so

      John Smith? You make a statement like that and don't even know the man's name? It's been proven to have been made up? Possibly, but stating an opinion as fact with nothing to back it up just makes you look stupid. Not that I disagree with you but please, at lest pretend to be intelligent.

      November 16, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  10. I Am God

    Atheism is the future. We believe in science, liberty, and the future of our children. Atheism will bring this country and the world to glory, instead of petty fighting between idiotic religious extremists.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • huhb

      From your mouth to....erm....the universe's ear!

      November 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I hope you are right.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Olsonic

      amen.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Colin

      yes, the gradual emergence of the country from its religious superst.itions does seem to be accelerating. This can only be good.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Saraswati

      If you look at the stats in Europe belief in god has largely been replaced in a belief in a "life force" or belief in things like homeopathy and other crackpot ideas. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any real progress towards humans becoming more rational, only marginally better at having their irrationality meet the needs of the modern era. Not to knock that; I'd rather have the crackpot thinking that fits than the 2000 yr old crackpot thinking.

      November 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  11. Jim34

    All Christians should unite and fight the gay marriage scourge before it is too late. If you do nothing and just sit remember you will have to answer to God on judgement day.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • I Am God

      Really? I am sure you will be going to hell. GOD NEVER TOLD YOU TO FORCE HIS BELIEFS ONTO OTHERS. Idiot.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Ben

      Jim34, you are doing Satan's work. You are spreading hate and trying to incite people against each other. You fool yourself into thinking you are doing God's work but it is actually Satan who rules your life. And he must really, really love you for the work you are doing on his behalf.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Florida

      Judgement day is a petty fairy tale that should have died when the world was proven to be round. I can't fathom how in 2012 people believe imaginary crap from 1000's of years ago. It's mind boggling that educated people put faith in complete nonsense. Bible salesman love gullible followers.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Observer

      Jim34,

      Is there any reason why you are picking on gays when there are FAR FAR MORE Christian adulterers? Other than hypocrisy?

      November 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Mosesthejew

      The church burns to the ground 15 people die, school bus struck by drunk driver 12 children killed, mother kills her two children, Navy pilot lost at sea, and the list goes on into the millions, BUT WHERE WAS THIS LOVING GOD? GUESS WHAT,
      HE WASN'T ANYWHERE BECAUSE IT, HE, SHE WHATEVER ISN'T REAL!

      November 15, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  12. fbrookman

    This analysis doesn't include the religious like me and my dearest friends who think the GOP/religious right reflect the moral values we learned in Bible school. I mean seriously, how can the religious who believe that "Everything happens for a reason" miss the obvious?

    First the GOP convention was disrupted by a hurricane, then a second not only doused the fires of Mitt momentum, but brought two adversaries together – polar opposites in every context: conservative/liberal, white/black, thick/thin – to work and help the victims of the storm. That sounds like something right out of the Old Testament to me.

    I don't recognize the GOP Jesus. As Ghandi said – “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    November 15, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  13. sparky

    Republicans can't see how they've created a huge and growing non-religious voting bloc by trying to shove the beliefs they mistakenly call Christianity down our throats.

    I'll bet one of them is reading this right now and thinking, "No, you're wrong. As sure as the earth is flat, what we need is more religion in the public square so that people can't escape it. Then they'll love us."

    November 15, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • MCR

      No, they can't see it, and that's why we might get the unusual third term democrat. A two party system will normally center fairly quickly to split the votes close to 50/50...unless a deep and inflexible ideology gets in the way. In this case those from the outside can see that it's on it's way out, but I don't think you can expect the Christians to see it, that's not how people work. They won't get it now, but in 4 years it will be a very different scenario. Even if they change the party line, there are still likely to be enough religious republicans left to think they can start a new party, further splitting the right wing vote. I'd say the Democrats are likely to get one more term before things recenter.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Mosesthejew

      NO, NO, YOUR WRONG SO WRONG! HUCKABEE & billy graham TOLD ME IT'S FLAT! NEXT THING YOU'll BE TRYING TO MAKE ME BELIEVE IS THAT THE SUN DOESN'T ORBIT THE EARTH! PLEASE STOP!

      November 15, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  14. Ned Flanders

    Jesus is behind the GOP like he's behind the Cleveland Browns.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  15. wowzah

    evangelicals need to get saved.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  16. Steve

    I find this quite refreshing; though I don't think we had a good choice on either side of the party lines, Obama was the better choice. What I find refreshing is that non religious people sided with someone who made it very clear that he doesn't care what religion you are...even if you have no religion. Which is exactly what my point is, religion should NEVER, EVER have been part of the political process and knowing that it is finally becoming a non topic in elections is awesome. You want religion...go to church. You want to vote for what is best for our country, pick a candidate that doesn't cater to your religious beliefs but caters to what he believes the people want and what is best overall for the entire nation...not just a cross section of it (and then of course follows through with it which Obama has not done...but I still believe all of the problems he inherited could not be solved in 4 years).

    November 15, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • William

      It is my belief that evolution is vastly more complex than is currently recognized. I believe that the whole concept of religion is an evolutionary trait that is keeping us from destroying ourselves until we have evolved to the point where a belief in a supernatural being (having the fear of god) wont be required to keep us from doing terrible things in life. I know religion has been the cause of terrible atrocities all carried out "in the name of god" but imagine the state we would be in if no one had the fear of paying for their actions in life.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • One Truth

      I totally agree with Steve!

      November 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  17. stevie68a

    What gets me most about "christians", is that they wear a cloak of "love" that hides the hate.
    We are in a New Age, and religion is part of the old.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  18. tony

    If the whole country adopted the recent and highly publicly popular California re-districting system, the USA could move forward properly and hold elections once more where ALL our votes counted.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  19. tony

    Good!

    November 15, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  20. Tessel

    This Atheist voted for Obama. The GoP will never win another Presidential election if they hold to being the party of "no" and thinking of themselves as archaic morality police. We want fiscal reform, re-hauls of social welfare programs, higher taxes, closed loopholes for the insanely rich AND the government out of our private business. Once we solve the Gerrymandering problem I doubt they'll hold onto power in the House either. P.S. There is no Heaven, live life to the fullest everyday and protect the Earth so that your offspring may enjoy it without having to wear gasmasks.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • tony

      actually atheism is plain common sense. Every baby born in the world is an atheist, naturally.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Tessel

      Hindu has 330 gods. Did a Hindu kick sand in your face? Is it the popular thing to hate brown people now instead of black people? I believe in Zeus, personally. He's making a comeback and he's going to show that loser God what being a deity is all about. Zeus had tons of children with us humans, he's extra virile and ready to show the ladies who their new savior is.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • BE A SALAHFI TO BE TRUE AMERICAN, DUMP HINDU ATHEISM, WAY OF hINDU, filthy ANIMALS.

      No sand on my face, Te ssel, skunk, Hindu cab driver, goon, run away with my youngest wife, Saleema Bibi, skunk.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.