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 “The American religious and ethnic landscape is becoming increasingly diverse, and any campaigns relying on outdated maps are destined to lose their way.”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

    Read an atricle in the NY times about republican governors standing up to Prez. Hussein on unfunded mandates and unconsti-tutional requirements on the states. Good to go.

    Anything to slow down the socialist-ification of thsi great country while we try to put a true patriot into the white house in 2016...

    November 18, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • ..

      Yeah Bro. civil disobedience, like Gandy against the british in India.

      November 18, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Maria Carvalho

      Take heart: your meds are covered under Obamacare. with good healthcare, you mightl be sane, lucid and coherent once again.

      November 18, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  2. Dana

    I'm glad that I am not afflicted by religion.

    November 18, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  3. Reality

    Only for the eyes of the Immoral/Stupid Majority:

    BO and Axelrod filled the airways with their pro-choice/abortion for two weeks before the election to ensure the Immoral Majority voted. And it worked yet again.->>>

    From the Guttmacher Insti-tute- August 2011

    "In 2008, 1.21 million abortions were performed, down from 1.31 million in 2000. However, between 2005 and 2008, the long-term decline in abortions stalled. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions occurred.[2]"

    i.e. making the number of Immoral Majority members more like 100 million in 2012.

    More from Guttmacher:

    "• Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. Among those women, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users report having used their method inconsistently, while 13% of pill users and 14% of condom users report correct use.["

    And if half of these aborting "mothers and fathers" have had two abortions, the Immoral Majority would still be a huge voting bloc i.e. ~75 million, enough votes to give any presidential candidate the differential votes needed to win.

    November 18, 2012 at 8:30 am |

    QUESTIONS: (1) Is anyone impressed with POTUS visit to Thailand while Mideast (and beyond) is on verge of massive explosion? (2) Was anyone inpressed with the over-flowing flood of details offered during the last W.H. Press Conference? (3) Why do people drive on parkways and park on driveways?

    November 18, 2012 at 7:27 am |

      You seem to have a brain and attend a Christian Religious Service regularly but you are confused about where you are. THIS IS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA where any law abiding citizen can do whatever they please. I grew up in a church and learned early on not to press my religion upon to anyone. If you want to bring people to where you are in understanding of GOD and Christ then you show them what LOVE is not hate of who and what they are. You Sir, are the reason I can no longer refer to myself as a "Christian". Because you hate anything that is not like yourself and disregard the differences of upbringing and refuse to educate yourself to become less ignorant of those things you do not know or understand.

      November 18, 2012 at 9:07 am |

    MESSAGE FOR GOV ROMNEY - Simon and Garfunkel "Mrs. Robinson" and "sound of Silnece" - where have you gone Joe Dimaggio? -a nation turned its lonely eyes from you - yes, a POTUS with Harvard MBA and Law Degree may have helped strengthen a deteriorating American economy - but a SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE POTUS with MBA and Law degree would be MUCH better - you think? Many hurt Americans confused about where to turn - hurt and lost their faith in God (as they define Him) -- few would deny having a Creator - though evolution theory is still alive and well in the secluded halls of academia. No one likes to be judged - except by their Creator Himself, and "judgement day" is soon approaching. God has granted righteous men of political power to judge and punish wicked men. Gov. Romney, there is a slight chance that this nation may turn its lonely eyes to you in the future - but will you be ready for the "4th time"? we'll see sir - we shall see.

    November 18, 2012 at 7:06 am |

    CNN MANAGEMENT - Men like FOX Geraldo Rivera are seasoned investigative reporters (remember Wassaic?) - Bob Woodward - facing the powerful odds head on and winning in the end - where are all the greats? These are tough times that beg for ressurection of the "tough experienced righteous."

    November 18, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • Mirosal

      If you're talking about the journalistic greats, It would be a safe bet that Edward R. Murrow could pick apart your religion with the same fervor and accuracy that he used to nail Joe McCarthy to the wall. Your religion cannot stand up to simple grade-school logic.

      November 18, 2012 at 6:24 am |
    • Mirosal

      you don't need religion or a "god" to be righteous, either. No deity is required to be able to help another person. And to believe in the supernatural just shows how gullible you are to belive almost anything told to you. To you, ALL other gods except YOURS is relegated to the realm of mythology. Soon (but not soon enough) yours will also join those others.

      November 18, 2012 at 6:44 am |

      @ mirosal - wink

      November 18, 2012 at 7:08 am |

    No one need be perfect to be righteous -"where did "news babes" get those legs? 🙂

    November 18, 2012 at 4:53 am |

    Small businesses will either have to pass increase in cost of doing business on to low/middle-income consumers or perish -- the academic left must continue to publish or perish - I say, let them perish (who would read the literary garbage anymore after a "short period of time" anyway? - "Not I", said the pig -"nor I," said the goat.

    November 18, 2012 at 4:51 am |

    Many "non-religious" have been hurt and blame God ("why weren't you there to save me?") - they turned to false gods offering false hope for change - they got the "jones" - they want and need reassurance and help seeking the "right path" to greater happiness - new pleasure over old pain. Let congress and media help show them the light and the way - the rest are pure satanic pagans. Only the "One Above" can separate sheep from goats -wheat from weeds - media have the thrash and burners in full operation now.

    November 18, 2012 at 4:46 am |

    Media knockout or just more "sour lemons"? - I believe the "former" things 🙂

    November 18, 2012 at 4:40 am |

    CNN DON LEMON -- Prize fight excellent metaphor -waiting for number 4 soon (wink)

    November 18, 2012 at 4:38 am |

    Those who assert that Precious One fights for the rights of the "non-religious" should visit Jonestown with Soledad someday.

    November 18, 2012 at 4:37 am |
  13. Freedom and Liberty

    Keep up the pressure everybody, make the Republicans understand they need to stop using religion as a political tool and that church and state needs to be separate.

    November 18, 2012 at 3:21 am |

      "one nation under God - indivisable, with liberty and JUSTICE FOR ALL"

      November 18, 2012 at 5:29 am |
    • redzoa


      November 18, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  14. cashmeremafia

    Congrats President Obama!! Thank you for fighting for the rights of the non-religious!

    November 17, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  15. Jake Pollard

    Proud to be one of the non-religious who helped bring Obama victory! The ongoing march of seperation of church and state, freedom, and equality for all has been defended.

    November 17, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  16. majav

    I find it particularly ironic that the most avowed atheists are in fact the least racist. I find it comforting that humanistic rationale can make fine bed fellows with minority collective consciousness to elect the most enlightened leader since Kennedy. Obama will prove to be more effective too. Never mind the popularity contest that is contingent of charisma, bone structure, and the right skin tone.

    There is no rationale for minorities to continue to believe in the white male Christian faith that for centuries subjugated slaves and serfs. This only emboldened white racist (and loudly Christian) hubris. Thankfully, this election cycle shows that white male domination is on the run. Good riddance. The next paradigm shift will be when religion is disregarded as dangerous folly and nothing more.

    And, I would wager, blacks and Latinos will continue down the Christian path long after the dejected white man gives it up for a karmic dose of bitterness and disillusionment. In that, we can expect white males to be the vanguard of dejected cynicism.
    But there is an antidote. Embrace life in the absence of contrived authority in whatever form it takes. We are all sovereign as individuals, never forget that. No one has dibs on you and vice versa.

    November 17, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Lucifer

      I call dibs on your soul.

      November 17, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  17. lionlylamb

    Mathew 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God!"

    Luke 17:21, "The kingdom of God is inside you!"

    John 18:36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world!"

    1Corinthians 3:9 "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building!"

    If one does "literally believe" the above four verses of KJVB scripture you will then slowly begin to understand the Truth in God's Word!

    November 17, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  18. Richard

    Atheist have no morals, and their women are ho-s and their men have STD's and they are gay. Atheist are also very angry and stupid

    November 17, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And you're 15.

      November 17, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Richard

      I bet your 40 and you have a 'Obama phone' and don't work and expect the gov't to take of you like most other lazy Americans

      November 17, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • lionlylamb


      I know Tom Tom and she has written about her working quite hard so can it!

      November 17, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "Your 40"? My 40 what? Oh, did you mean "you're 40"? Then why didn't you write that, fvcktard? No, dear, I'm NOT 40. But you are 15. And yes, sweetheart, I do work. I pay taxes and I don't get "free" anything. I don't know what your fixation is with free phones, but I wish you'd get one and shove it up your fundament.

      November 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Damocles


      You seem cranky. Do you need a warm bottle of milk and your snuggly blankie?

      November 17, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What Dicky needs is to grow a dick. And he needs a smack upside his empty head.

      November 17, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • hal 9001

      Congratulations, Richard, it is my honor to notify you that you have won the Belief Blog's Stupidest Post of the Week Contest!

      You have won two free hours in the Belief Blog's Self-Flagellation Room, located at the Belief Blog headquarters. Please stop by at your convenience to claim your free prize!

      November 17, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Damocles

      Oh, yeah, you may be on to something there, Tom. If he's as smooth as a Ken doll down there that would explain is crankiness. Is that it, Rich? Is your little soldier in full retreat? Hanging like a turtle that doesn't want to be seen? Oh... could be it's embarassed to be attached to you, I mean it's obvious your brain cells have fled the scene of the crime, can't blame your extremities for following their fine example.

      November 17, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Mikeyboy

      I know atheists who aren't bigots which means they obviously have morals than you. Plus, you seem to have a lock on anger and stupidity. 'Hope you don't consider yourself to be a Christian because you set a very poor example.

      November 17, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • majav

      Oh little Dickie, how can you possibly believe in God? If there was a God, He certainly would have left you better endowed mentally. Morality? Since when is insulting others moral? Go away. All those prayers of your mother remain unanswered. Shame.

      November 17, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • CF

      Besides the general stupidity of your comments, you dont understand that there is a difference because between atheists and those with no religious affiliation. You can believe in good and not follow specific religion.

      November 17, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Leif

      I bet that one of your friends or a member of your family is an atheist.

      November 18, 2012 at 2:47 am |
  19. Inabon Yunes

    Oh well, this is just great, 75% of Obama's voters were religious and 25% weren't. Yet, this media says that the 25% had more power than the 75%. This kind of report is what makes me say in China that the US lives in a bubble of controled media.

    November 17, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Mickey1313

      What it means is that most non religious people voted for the re election of obama than suported the nuts o cult man romney.

      November 17, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • End Religion

      Must be nice to live under a government that doesn't attempt to control its citizens like care-free China.

      November 17, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Leif

      They did have a lot of power, because the religious vote was divided. I would bet money that people who are not scientifically illiterate also voted overwhelmingly for Obama. The GOP can only count on the uneducated, which is why they are so opposed to the teaching of science.

      November 18, 2012 at 2:51 am |
  20. Barry Soetoro

    Good Job President Barry Soetoro

    November 17, 2012 at 6:33 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.