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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 “The American religious and ethnic landscape is becoming increasingly diverse, and any campaigns relying on outdated maps are destined to lose their way.”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. lionlylamb

    et al,

    A scattering is upon us in these trying days and Age. Leave your wantings behind and never take wind of one's longings for the weightiness of one's longings will smite even the most influential. Carry away nothing and leave. Head to the places inside one's being and do not keep ajar your door for many will want to enter in and should not. Your loving this Life is for the world to have needs and you should not heed the rumors from others as to just what is truly right. It is therefore best for mankind to simmer in their juvenile pottages never rationalizingly 'assaying' one's diffuse detriments, the very smallest of life's grains. As smitten breeds, our splendors reveal one's characters to be traitorous to one's analogous fold. Where then does Life end and living begin?

    November 15, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Observer

      Life begins before conception. If sperm and egg didn't have life at one time, there would be no conception.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      A scattering is upon us in these trying days and Age. Leave your wantings behind and never take wind of one's longings for the weightiness of one's longings will smite even the most influential. Carry away nothing and leave. Head to the places inside one's being and do not keep ajar your door for many will want to enter in and should not. Your loving this Life is for the world to have needs of and you should not heed the rumors from others as to just what is truly right. It is therefore best for mankind to simmer in their yet unfinished juvenile pottages never rationalizingly 'assaying' one's diffuse detriments, the very smallest of life's grains. As smitten breeds, our splendors reveal one's characters to be traitorous to one's analogous fold. Where then does True Life end and Real Living begin?

      November 15, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • DeeCee1000

      Simma dow now.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
  2. Cplf22

    Glad to see we're finally starting to join the rest of modern society here in America.

    November 15, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  3. Rich

    This is EXACTLY what satan (the devil) wanted to happen in the election. Our country has completely turned away from God; it's going to continue to be a downward spiral for our nation. The signs are already evident with the economy, persecution of Christians, natural disasters and the Israeli conflict with Gaza. All of you non-believer types are being fooled by the devil and will soon come to realize that God is in control of everything. Please take time to be still with Almighty God, accept Jesus Christ into your life and read His precious word (Bible). Don't wait until it's too late! Now is the time to repent and seek the Lord!

    November 15, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • froodley

      I am telling you as a christian and a conservative that you sound like a Jihadi, none of what you're saying about the left is even slightly accurate, and I resent people like you for making it so impossible to sell the Gospel or fiscal conservatism.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Observer

      Rich,

      We just had a president who "talks to God all the time". He was on duty for the worst attack on our soil ever; one of the worst natural disasters ever; a plummeting stock market; and he started a war for false reasons. Guess God wasn't impressed.

      Yep. The end of the world is near, just like it's been wrongly predicted for 2,000 years. Yep.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Jim

      Reading the Bible is what made me an Atheist. Take the time to really read it, and you'll see what I mean.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • froodley

      Natural disasters – brought on by poor stewardship of nature by – the conservatives. Violence in the middle east caused by – conservatives. The broken economy – caused in large part by the atheist Ayn Rand's foolish philosophy of the unrestricted individual and that philosophy's failure to protect the community from deregulation – again, if you're being honest, the conservatives. And I'll say again, I am a conservative and a Christian, and I could say any number of things about the left, like: abortion is murder whether you're mature enough to admit it or not, or, if you give crackheads free lung transplants for life, you'll bankrupt the economy...

      But, no matter how rude you get back, I've already seen too-far-right for what it is, too, and I'm not biting. All this one-sided, uncritical slop for the TV is turning everyone crazy.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • JM

      Satan wanted us to elect a Christian instead of a Mormon as president.

      Fascinating...

      November 15, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • talkingraven1

      now it's the devil who is to blame...didn't romney the romulan say it was because of the gifts obama gave to minorities? so, which is it? it is taking way longer than most of us would like, but the ring wing christians and catholics will eventually become obsolete. i hope i am around to see it.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • talkingraven1

      now it's the devil who is to blame...didn't romney the romulan say it was because of the gifts obama gave to minorities? so, which is it? it is taking way longer than most of us would like, but the right wing christians and catholics will eventually become obsolete. i hope i am around to see it.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  4. !!

    BAN ATHEISM!! BAN ATHEISM !!

    November 15, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • froodley

      Is this a joke?

      November 15, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Oldster

      You look like an ayatollah with bunny ears.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Oldster

      make that ayato!!ah.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • JM

      Why would any sane person want to be like you?

      November 15, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • Bill in Florida

      Ban Region! There is no God!

      November 15, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Oldster

      JM,

      He's a Poe troll... but the bunny ears are cute.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  5. Tom

    Everyone has their own religious beliefs. I thought that we had Freedom of Religion in America. I won't look bad on someone who is Jewish or Lutheran for it is their belief.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • talkingraven1

      there should also be freedom FROM religion. we agnostics and atheists have human right like anyone else. and just because we don't believe as christians doesn't mean we know what love and forgiveness is.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  6. Paul Dick

    As an areligious individual all I can say about all this is-praise Jesus, it's about time the electorate woke up

    November 15, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  7. shawbrooke

    The US' political divide became a cultural divide in the 2000's and now in this decade it's become a religious divide too? The US has to change how it operates because soon the 2 groups of voters will have nothing in common. I think that Latino votes will always vote strategically, because they are trying to establish themselves. Blacks clearly vote for blacks, with 93% of black voters voting for Obama. Whites are still the majority in the US and this divide is their problem. It can't be fixed, so better ways must be developed to work around it, a more collaborative system with fewer winner take alls and less emotional rhetoric.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • froodley

      Great post

      November 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  8. Charlotte

    Tax the churches.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • krivka

      Right on! All churches, synagogues, mosques, and their holding should be taxed along with their preachers, rabbis, priests and so called reverends. They are leeches.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  9. Jason

    Slowly but surely people are starting to let go of their imaginary friend and face reality.

    This is a good thing.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  10. Andrew

    I would stand in line for 36 hours to vote to prevent religious fundamentalists from forcing their bible down my throat and the throats of my neighbors, especially the vulnerable like the poor and so many women. You think Tea Party nuts and evangelicals are motivated voters? We atheists actually show up at the polls because we know the evil we fight against – we see it every time we surf over Fox News and a televangelist.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  11. genold

    The sooner the U.S. becomes a post Christian country the better. TAX THE CHURCHES.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  12. REDFIREBALL

    This is one math that adds up perfectly - Earth's laughter and Heaven's tears

    November 15, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • froodley

      Please quit freaking out. I've been everywhere and I know everyone, and I'm telling you, you couldn't be more wrong. All the one-sided -isms and non-cooperators are already endlessly guilty of going overboard and crashing the economy or whatever. The bad guys is everybody. It's not like you're thinking. It's just a bunch of people who are terrible at complicated logic crowing and wasting time and money. Zoom way out.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  13. IssueVoter

    The posts here explain EXACTLY why this country is getting as screwed up as it is. Anyone who votes for/against someone because of their religion or lack thereof is a MORON. Just like voting for/against someone JUST because their view on one subject, such as abortion. Just as idiotic as voting for/against someone because they are black/white. GROW UP! Pay attention to the issues, research, don't vote on the non-issues I listed above. By the way, atheists, I know you have a strong hatred of all religious beliefs and do not want legislators using their religions to dictate your laws...its a little late for that, all of our early laws (when this country was young) were based on Christian beliefs....lol

    November 15, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • saraswati

      "[T]he Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion" – President John Adams, 1797, universally ratified by the US Senate.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      And almost all of those early laws have been tossed since then.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Florida

      So if a satanist ran for President of the united states, commander of our national security we should disregard their religious beliefs and focus on issues? You are the moron if you ignore someones religion when you vote. Religion is very offensive to a lot of human beings. Freedom from religion is very important to a lot of human beings. Your post is EXACTLY what an uneducated moron thinks. It is never too late to change our government. It's called democracy.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Akira

      I have always voted the issues, and sàraswati is correct: this country was *not* founded on Christian principles, nor were the early laws Christian-based.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Jim

      The Adams quote is not from a law, it is from the Treaty of Tripoli. It shows the mindset of the Founding Fathers and shines a light on how we have lost our way in the USA.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  14. froodley

    There is a very, very serious problem with this article. People with no religious affiliation cover an enormous range of spiritual and religious views. Agnostics and atheists, who are obviously within their rights not to know something regardless of what you think, would fit right in there. But so would all the "just plain religious", "spiritual not religious," multi/world-religious, members of minor religions that don't make the list, and just anyone who hasn't found their answer yet. I find the language in this article almost inflammatory! The expression "no religion" implies all these people are atheists and feeds the (ancient and very, very unsophisticated) Revelations-worship coming out of the religious right.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  15. Noconfusion

    It would be great if i didn't have to hear about jebus each election but somehow i think i will. It would be even nicer if federal funds could be used for abortions. I'm nof for all the drone bombings but my tax dollars get used for that and the drones really are killing children.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  16. #1JesusFan

    Obama is a Godless heathen and all those who support him are empty and soless

    No religion=No sympathy.These Libs hate everyone and kill babies.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • Observer

      Wow. Lots of hatred there.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Answer

      "soless" ??

      What no shoes? lol

      November 15, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • genold

      Incredible. The sheer obsequious dullness of religious zealots is breathtaking.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Casey

      You hatred is sad. Jesus said we should not judge.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • JM

      You aren't Jesus' #1 fan because you sound nothing like him. You sound like the Pharisees or like the devil.

      Open the Bible. Read. Find out that you are a jerk and the kind of person Jesus's parables are all about: self-righteous hypocrites who have nothing to do with him.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • Bposs

      You sir, have mastered the art of trolling. Well done.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • saraswati

      I'm a lot more inclined to believe the right wing fight against universal health care is killing babies.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Jo

      What ever 'your' religion is I am not !!!! I think there are Blue State Jesus followers and Red State haters!!!!! Too simplistic but close!!! I think Jesus would be more comfortable in a Blue State!!!!

      November 15, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Charlotte

      And once again we see that those who oppose him (Obama) cannot spell. WT&F is with that anyway, is it a requirement for being a teashattie?

      November 15, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • krivka

      Maybe Jesus could help you with your spelling. If he really cared, why did Obama win? Jesus either favored him, was too busy watching English Premier League Football, or, gasp, is a figment of your imagination.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • krivka

      One more thing.... Did you ever see jesus's birth certificate? I think there is a better chance of Harry Potter being the chosen one than Jesus ever living. Do a little research outside your cult.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  17. froodley

    Also, @Russ, that entire theology comes from Paul and the old testament, and has no support in the Gospel, except for Jesus' lack of interest in condemning his flat-lander accusers for not understanding him. Many Christians are rejecting the idea that such guilt is healthy or accurate, and that it has any basis in the teachings of the Christ.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
  18. Joanna

    He won...who cares why, !! He won and he will our President for other 4 years, that's it!

    November 15, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  19. Beilief Blog Bistro

    ½ lb. Tri-Tip (bottom sirloin), grilled medium rare, sliced thin after marinating in its own juices and our succulent marinade. Served with spicy pinto beans, flour tortillas and homemade salsa. You WILL become addicted! $12.99

    It is getting late! We are open until 11pm Eastern.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • BE A SALAHFI TO BE TRUE AMERICAN, DUMP HINDU ATHEISM, WAY OF hINDU, filthy ANIMALS.

      make me a gobar, crap of a sick pig, panini, goon, and a big glass of goat s fresh pee, no ice, crook.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  20. Observer

    Roger,

    "so yes i do know he is a born again xtian.'

    You know his PUBLIC statements. That is ALL you know.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Roger Marks

      well then their is only 2 things here.

      he lies about his beliefs to get votes. in which case this makes him very dishonest and should not be voted for.

      or he really is a born again xtian like he proclaims and talks to supernatural beings and should not be voted for because he obvioulsy not very bright and and loony

      November 15, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Observer

      Roger,

      The phony indignity isn't fooling anyone. You and I both know that NO ONE could get elected these days by proclaiming they are atheists. Cut the bull.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • saraswati

      @roger, I hate to break it to you, but every politician lies to get votes. At least every politician who actually gets elected in anything bigger than a remote village. Romney and Obama are both gigantic liars; if that kind of thing trips you up I'd stay home on election day.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Casey

      Only Obama and God know the state of Obama's soul.

      November 15, 2012 at 10:38 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.