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 “The American religious and ethnic landscape is becoming increasingly diverse, and any campaigns relying on outdated maps are destined to lose their way.”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. Lizzy10

    This is one non practicing Catholic (I don't need to practice, I've perfected it) who voted for President Obama.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  2. eHarmony

    Evangelical and Atheism is Unhealthy for Children and Other Living Things found their true love for one another online. Let us find someone for you.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • ThisIsHowBlackPeopleMeet.com

      Hells yeah boyz! Fuck da dumb shit and bring me da white christian bitches!

      November 15, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  3. stevie68a

    Maybe "christians" are figuring out they have been scammed by the "preachers" who offer a prosperity gospel that tells you
    "god wants you to be rich", "send us money".
    You can be a good person without their nonsense. Teach ethics instead of myths.
    Man can have but one master, and their god is MONEY.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  4. Ken

    How can someone who claims to follow a religion like Catholicism or Christianity vote for Obama? Aren't you basically betraying your faith? You're voting for someone who supports gay marriage and abortions which is totally counter to your faith. When you claim to be one of these faiths after such a vote, you are lying to yourself and lying to God (who you supposedly believe in). Lets be honest here folks. If you voted for Obama, you are not religious,

    November 15, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Observer


      The bible never mentions abortion. You might want to read it sometime so you'll know better.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Veritas

      Catholics are a Christian sect.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Ken, this is a wonderful time we live in. I am thankful I am alive to witness it! These people you speak of are casting away the primitive believes of their oppressors and moving forward into the age of enlightenment. Like a smoker, it is hard to kick the habit (no pun intended) but they are succeeding, little by little. It is wonderful.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • freedom of thought

      Some things are more important than who your neighbor is sleeping with and what some stranger decided about her own reproductive health.

      You can be religious and still believe that you have no right to push your faith onto other peoples freedoms.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Christian7

      Observer, The Bible says that God creates life in the womb. It also says Thou shall not murder.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • nek

      All that sanctity of lfe bullshit only goes as far as unborn life – very little effort goes into maintaining existing life.
      Why prevent contraception and decry abortion? It is to maintain a steady flow of sheep. Running a religion and all the gospel of prosperity trappings is expensive.

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

      Nonsense, Ken.

      Not all religious voters believe that a president must design public policy based on his/her faith. – If that was the case, you would already live in a theocracy (or would you prefer that?). Indeed, a president must separate faith from political decision making.

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


      The Bible says that if you cause a woman to miscarry, the punishment is a FINE paid to the father (typical).

      The Bible says that if you hurt a PERSON, the punishment is "an eye for an eye".

      November 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Veritas

      C7. A legal procedure is not murder. Your two comments do not answer the original point.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Servant63

      Observer~ you really need to study the bible as you are dangerously taking things out of context... This is how people are misled and become confused about the Truth...

      November 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Servant63

      Veritas... C7 two comments do answer the question... just because it is legal – doesn't mean it is moral... killing jews was legal... God said that life begins in the womb – that answers the question about abortion..

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


      Ah yes the age old rationalization. "Context, context context". So then, please enlighten all of us as to the proper context that makes what was cited not mean that an unborn fetus is not as important or worth less than an actual person?

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


      Try again. What is out of context? The Bible NEVER mentions abortion and this is as close as it gets.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Servant63

      Observer~ are you looking for the word "abortion"? That word, and many other words, are not in the bible... God tells us not to kill... so with the understanding we have – we can know that killing means not to take another persons life... God tells us that life begins in the womb... so I tell this to my 6 year old – even he could understand that we shouldn't take any persons life away – and that life begins in the womb... HAWAIIGUEST – hopefully this answers your question as well... ALL life is precious to God as that is who he died for...

      November 15, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      No it doesn't because you are not addressing the verse that was given. The verse given earlier shows that the life in the womb is worth only a fine, unless there's grievous harm to the woman, then the penalty could fall under the "eye for an eye" bit, up to death if the woman dies also.

      November 16, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Mikeyboy

      People should not expect a POTUS or anyone else to agree with them on everything. Obama got Christian votes because they saw enough other good things about him. Plus, the alternative was even more undesirable. That's what it means to really respect diversity of opinions and beliefs. Try it. Maybe that will end your confusion but first you must be cured of self-righteousness.

      November 17, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • redzoa

      @Servent63 – "God tells us that life begins in the womb... so I tell this to my 6 year old – even he could understand that we shouldn't take any persons life away – and that life begins in the womb."

      You're talking about the same God who demanded the slaughter of pregnant woman, children and infants? Who did so directly with a global flood? Who is presently and omnipotently controlling a global miscarriage rate of 15-20% of all pregnancies? But clearly, the Bible/God prohibits killing unborn children . . . except when it/He doesn't . . .

      I'm sure you feel the same way about Capital Punishment too, eh?

      November 17, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • 0_0

      are you idoit?

      November 19, 2012 at 2:27 am |
  5. dwech

    Rev. Albert Mohler Jr. tweets after the election: “we are witnessing a fundamental moral realignment of the country.”

    Perhaps, Mr. Mohler, and if so, probably in the right direction. If you are implying that the increase of non-religion affiliated people is somehow a moral offense, you are sadly mistaken. Don't equate your particular religious following with morals, and think somehow you and your flock have 'cornered the market'. Many have left the church behind because of the immorality they witnessed there.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  6. sheshie

    " A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship him, anymore than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the wall of his cell." – C.S Lewis

    November 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Chris

      Perfect response.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  7. Oh

    Thank god the youth of this country don't need religion to fill the void.

    November 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Chris

      For sure, don't want any more of that "love your neighbour" stuff. Fill the void....Call of Duty, Britney, Family Guy...so glad they are into that and not helping at the soup kitchen any more.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  8. jvance

    I don't have any problem with religions and the fundamentals of Christianity are fine with me. But when you start mixing religion-specific doctrine into political decisions things start to get a little sketchy.

    November 15, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • JM

      Jesus didn't come to earth and try to overthrow governments; so, what's up with the crazy rightwingers?

      November 15, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Apple Bush


      Jesus did not "come" to Earth. If he existed he was a human.


      You should have a problem for the very reason you stated. Wake up and smell the evil.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  9. jaxgrim

    Hey it's this story again.

    November 15, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  10. JM

    I think it's nuts how some Christians refuse to accept that Obama is a Christian. What's up w/that? Does that mean that they themselves are not Christians but actually Pharisees? Can we simply tell them that they aren't Christians? Is that how that works?

    November 15, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Servant63

      What makes you think that he is a Christian?

      November 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Christian7

      IF Obama is a Christian, why did he call the Koran holy. If the Koran is Holy than the Christian Bible is not. They both can't be true.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  11. us_1776

    There is no Sky Fairy.

    Get over it.


    November 15, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Christian

      How do you know that God does not exist?

      November 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Clausen

      I converted to atheism because of your comment.



      I was a Christian all my life, but your post in the comments section of this CNN article changed me in unfathomable ways. I feel bored, so I may go read up on some good ole' cellular biology and study chemistry. It SO much fun! That's how you become an atheist right? Do science stuff all the time?

      Well from now on, before I go to bed, I'm going to read my "Origin of Spieces" and think about Darwin for a while. On sunday mornings I'll go the library and learn about dinosaurs! I have to be a good little atheist and be scientific all the time!

      I think I'll start my own blog too... I need a good name though. How about "TheRationalSkeptic"? All the cool bloggers have names like that. I sure hope to be like them one day!

      Some of those pesky Christians were praying at a cross beside the road the other say! How dare they try to enfore their beliefs on us! And there was a man handing out free Church pamplets on the sidewalk! That's right. He was literally shoving his religion down my throat!

      November 15, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Christian7

      "The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect;" Issac Newton

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

      @Christian: Because your only evidence that he does exist is a thoroughly discredited archaeological artifact and a bunch of "religious" people who are far less Christ-like than the average pagan. Any more questions?

      November 15, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Christian

      thegadfly, Yes I have another question. What if hell actually exists and you went there forever? What would that be like?


      November 15, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      False Dichotomy. Your religion isn't the only one out there. So answer me this:
      What if you're wrong and Islam is right, or Hindus, or even Buddhists?

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

      hawaiiguest, I am not wrong. The worst case scenario is going to hell.

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


      So you're not wrong because you say so? Oh please Pascal's Wager has been dead for a long time.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:44 pm |

    Humans, am I not religiously unaffiliated? what this goon, Dan, corruption ot Thin Allah, secular s, talking about? ignorant.

    November 15, 2012 at 8:40 pm |

      hinduism, absurdity of a hindu, absurd.

      November 15, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • harinder

      only a filthy animal will recogonise another one. get a life.people like you are part of the problem on this planet

      November 15, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  13. TheVocalAtheist

    The Religious Right can jump and down and flail about but it is not going to change progress and this trend of no religion. Anyone with a basic concept of what is moral clearly sees that these evil group of people are desperate and cling to outdated forms of inhumanity, injustice and bigotry. Its over, we are not going to allow your agendas anywhere in the public forum. Your toast, its done, over with, go away.

    November 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • Christian

      Our toast has the image of Jesus.

      November 15, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  14. captain murica

    Obama won by tossing baubles and trinkets to the takers of this country. Hell! He would have passed whiskey around if it was legal at the polls. Whores too. There's too much trash in this country and it has the vote.

    November 15, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Hello poe.

      November 15, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • say what

      Rush beat you to that one. Try thinking on your own for a change.

      November 15, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • JM

      The takers? Do you mean the ones who took this country from the natives? The ones who took people from another continent and brought them here to work since they themselves were too lazy?

      November 15, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Observer

      captain murica,

      That was Mitt's pitiful excuse. No one's buying it. Just like the 47% comment, Mitt is "completely wrong" once again.

      Even Bobby Jindal said Romney was wrong again.

      November 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • JPX

      Captain Murica, your pathetic party lost in a LANDSLIDE. Hahaha, enjoy the next 4 years!

      November 15, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • What so proudly we hailed

      God, Guts, Guns = Good Government

      November 15, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • thegadfly

      Obama has promised me nothing more than sane governance. I can understand why sane governance is a concept totally foreign to all you "real Americans".

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

      We have "trades" and we use to have "trade unions". We now have free trading economies with many otherly nations/countries. What about making the recreational drug trades free? How about a free "S.e.x trade" for we already have a regulated gambling trade! Imagine all the loot governing bodies could get from legalizing all mannerisms of all trades. Tax the bejeesms outta them all- those recreational trades of physical and emotional consumerisms!

      November 15, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  15. lionlylamb

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

    Cmon all you atheists you godless and ungodly Beings! Throw this verse into the faces of the religiously devoted who themselves are trying to make this world into a godly world which never will happen!

    November 15, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • niknak

      Are you trying to be funny or serious?
      Cause you failed at both.

      November 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      He is serious niknak. Just be glad this post was brief.

      November 15, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Keith

      That is why Jehovah's Witnesses don't vote. We know that Gods will is not in line with any earthly government.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      J.W.s? I asked for them to pay me a visit. They came by a short while back and by twos they did come by. I asked them both about the following criptures,

      Mahewt 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God."

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

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

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

      Neither one of your J.W.s could answer my questions regarding these verses for they seemed dumbfounded and did proclaim my stance to be "above" them two, one an old man and the other a heavily clad black kid.

      What say you regarding these verses of gospel scriptures?

      November 15, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  16. booo!

    I almost voted for the green party just to waste my vote. Either Dem or Rep were a bad choice I think.

    November 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I gladly wasted my vote on Johnson.

      November 15, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Snow

      "Jeff Johnson.. the name you know!!" ? 🙂

      November 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Shepherd

      I helped propel Johnson to 1% of the vote!

      November 15, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • Pete

      Megatron was my write in candidate. Might as well aim high if you're not going mainstream

      November 15, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Libertarian Atheist

      I voted for Gary Johnson, rather than the left OR right wing of the Crony-Capitalist Party.

      November 16, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  17. lionlylamb

    What was first made can never again become that which was first made for only in varying differential constructs can another thing be made to be outdone against that which was firstly made. The pillars of one's DNA, the spirals of all celestial life forms and formations is where God's Sons and their given wives are taken in residents there abouts. The Kingdoms of God lay where the inner structures of celestial Life do share in the abundancies of Living Fractals in Cosmological Paradigms. As mankinds' hunting for the codifying of Life's laws of cellularized confinements continues onwards, we will ever become non-complacent in our societal grandeurs for wants sakes never to be outdone by those who tend to be in simplifications' adjuring. May we be merciful upon those who deservidely aspire to be merciful toward others.

    Lettuce Love
    Let Us Not,
    Let Us Love,
    Lettuce Knot,

    November 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  18. WOT

    God's will is always Done!

    November 15, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • sam

      I suppose that's why Obama got reelected?

      November 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • noodles doodles and toodles

      That's why all the people in NY are suffering. That's why 6,000,000 Jews were killed in WWII. That's why all the babies were slaughtered in the tsunami. Nice god ya got there.

      November 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • say what

      God aborts hundreds of unborn children each day.

      November 15, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • John

      Gottcha. Next time some brain washed Christian brings up free will I'll slap their face.

      November 15, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Servant63

      “So why can’t God prevent people from causing the suffering that they do to other people?” The answer is that he could, and someday he will. He will decisively interrupt the affairs of the world, bring a curtain down on history, and judgment will come, along with a new creation in which there are no more tears and no more pain. But in the meantime, God allows human beings to exercise a quality that is one of the most noble things human beings possess, and also one of the most dangerous: freedom.

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

      noodles doodles and toodles: You are so dumb its ridiculous just like your name. What did God do to the people of NY??? Have you heard of hurricane? Or why the Jews were killed...Seriously you need to read read read...Men killed the Jews not God. He gave everyone a choices and people choose to do what they want. Why blame God for the mistakes man do??? Its simply because people like you are the ones that think you never do anything wrong and always find someone to blame...Talking to you is like trying to explaining to a two year old why pigs don't fly. Utter Rubbish.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      So then your god's will isn't always done? Does your god interfere in any part of reality to make his will be done?

      November 15, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Servant63

      God wanted to make a certain kind of creature as the last step of the creation. He created human beings invested with this incredible privilege and power, the life-giving and life-taking power of freedom. The misuse of freedom has set into human nature a series of fault lines that goes not only through humanity, but through the whole creation as well. Like us, the whole of creation groans “as in the pains of childbirth,” it is “subjected to frustration,” and it “waits in eager expectation” for God’s final redemption when the bondage will end, and the adoption of sons and daughters of God will be complete (see Romans 8:18-39).

      November 15, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  19. HAHAHA

    Hahahahaha Christians!
    Your stupid, hate-filled and oppressive supersti-tion is slowly but surely dying!

    November 15, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • VanHagar

      So says the stupid, hate filled and oppressive HAHAHA. See, I can do it too. Now we're both better off.

      November 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • HAHAHA

      No, you didnt "do it too," cause what I said was true, and what you said was false.
      Back to the drawing board, mighty wizard!

      November 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • VanHagar

      I'm rubber, you're glue. Whatever you throw at me bounces back and sticks to you. See, I did it too. I can make baseless, pointless and utterly childish statements just like you. Your turn.

      November 15, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  20. MCR

    I've been struck by the Republican response to this loss, calling for even stricter adherence to their religious conservatism.I understand that the true believers can'tdo otherwise, can't allow themselves to believe otherwise, but it's going to mean a longer than usual dominance of a single party in politics. While I support and almost always vote democrat, progress once comes when the line shifts and when the opposing party actually changes; this is why it's rare to have a single party dominate for long in a two party system. I hope the extended rule this will give the democrats will be well used.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      A hardened heart knows not the beaten down troffs, the women who do beguile the belittlers of staunchy men.

      November 15, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
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About this blog

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.