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 “The American religious and ethnic landscape is becoming increasingly diverse, and any campaigns relying on outdated maps are destined to lose their way.”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

    Turn the keys to the nukes over to a guy who wears magic underwear? I think not ! Better off giving them to a mental patient.

    November 16, 2012 at 6:02 am |
  2. GO_GOP

    Fruity boy toyz!! I wanna pump dat rump!! Let's all get bizzy and pound till we dizzy!! Yeahh boyeee! Fairies rule!!

    November 16, 2012 at 5:56 am |
  3. Political Analyst

    CROSSOVER VOTING... Millions of devoutly religious Christians could not vote in good faith for a Mormon. So, in the privacy of the booth they voted for "the real Christian" - President Obama.

    It's not politically correct to say that, though. That's why we have heard no pundit suggest this theory. The secret lies in the hearts of millions who will forever take it to their graves, unable to tell spouses, children, and friends of their decision...

    November 16, 2012 at 5:53 am |
    • Leif

      Ridiculous. Obama won in 2008 with a similar strategy, and the GOP wasn't running a Mormon then.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:10 am |
  4. thumpas....pumpas

    Dem GOP bible thumpas....plump rump pumpas!! They be right wing and they be gaaaay...they always think they iz da right way! Now there are many repubs that aint fruits...but most are fairies and in zoot suits! They pound their buddy right in da chute...when they done then its onto the skin flute!! Flamas!! Your biggest supporter is Ben!! Ben Dover!!!!

    November 16, 2012 at 5:51 am |
  5. GO_GOP

    I pray to Jesus everyday so that we can come out of this Godlessness our country has become infested with.

    November 16, 2012 at 4:22 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      While you pray to your imaginary friend, the rest of the world will think for you.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:38 am |
    • JD

      Yes. Because prayer has proven so effective. Notice, that the further from "religion" we move as people, the sharper we become. 1 out of every 5 people claim no religion now and its continuing to grow, finally moving out of early world based policies and into a brighter healthier future.

      November 16, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • Christopher Reid

      While I hope each day that we can move further from your ideology. Religion has done so much to hold back mankind and create strife and suffering. Time to let it go. I will remain "godless"

      thank you

      November 16, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • USAtheist

      It's wonderful that this country is turning away from the irrational and asinine beliefs that most religion have

      November 16, 2012 at 5:16 am |
    • GO_GOP

      I pray to Jesus every day that he will bring me sum yung boytoyz to party with! I just wannna schlob their knobs...dem big ol corn cobs...if they uncle toms?? I luv dem jiggz-a-boooz cuz dey got da monster meat stiks!!!! Boyeeee!

      November 16, 2012 at 5:53 am |
    • caw

      How's that been working for you?

      November 16, 2012 at 6:02 am |
  6. Tippers

    "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.” Aka, there are many people we need to convert to our beliefs.

    November 16, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  7. worldcares

    A minority Christian? This article is a travesty of racial, hypocritical and judgemental speculation.
    Again, I say, it is about focus.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:59 am |
    • MarkinFL


      Statistics are a travesty?

      November 16, 2012 at 5:54 am |
  8. Metallicrone

    Many Christians remarked on their FB walls " Jesus is always King", I guess meaning despite who gets elected. So, really what's the point in voting? And if God controls everything (his eye is on the sparrow), then whoever wins is how it's meant to be.
    This is why I think many evangelical Christians didn't vote this election, and won't do so in the future.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:48 am |
    • JD

      I can't stand that religious way of thinking..."you can't counter my view because it's meant to happen"...

      November 16, 2012 at 5:11 am |
    • saggyroy

      You can't argue with a sick mind JD.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:08 am |
    • NavinJay

      I thought Elvis was King?

      November 16, 2012 at 6:14 am |
    • UncleBenny

      I thought Bob Wills was King.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:40 am |
  9. borisjimbo

    Maybe we're just sick of the thumpers trying to shove their Bibles down our throats.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:33 am |
    • ladyofthelake

      Well said. This, indeed, is the exact problem. Everyone hates it when someone else tries to shove something down their throats. Jesus never did that. He simply said what he had to say, answered questions, lived a certain way and went about his business. He never said the first word about gays, a woman's right to choose what to with her own body, etc. The evangelicals are wrecking the church because they want to insert themselves into other peoples' lives. People like Jesus – its the church they cannot stand.

      November 16, 2012 at 5:34 am |
  10. RichardSRussell

    Funny how all those evangelical Christians — who as recently as 2011 thot of Mormons as harbingers of the antichrist — were able to turn on a dime when the only alternative was a BLACK Protestant.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:16 am |
    • ScottLL

      Are you trying to drive a wedge between evangelical Christians and protestants?

      November 16, 2012 at 3:45 am |
    • UncleBenny

      The evangelicals are doing a fine job of that on their own, thank you very much.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:41 am |
  11. champ

    Its getting harder and harder for someone who considers themselves even modestly interested in their faith to support a democrat.

    I think if you measured how often obama voters who claim belief even go to church you would find out they are about the least practicing you could find. pro gay pro abortion rubs just about every religion, christian or not, the wrong way.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:13 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      An overstatement, to be sure, but one that certainly helps explain why that kind of bigoted supernatural flim-flammery is waning.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:18 am |
    • Kofi Tag

      Simply because they are greedy and self-righteous.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:21 am |
    • Doug in SC

      The problem with Christians is that they focus so intently on what they perceive to be the sins of others. There are many, many "sins" that are perfectly legal. Some of them were illegal at one time, but now they are not. According to scripture, there are only two Biblically acceptable reasons for divorce: infidelity and incompatability of faith practices. Yet Christians divorce for myriad reasons. Here's a radical thought, Christians ... focus on your own sins.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:32 am |
    • MarkinFL

      The I do not see how as a Christian you can remain a U.S. citizen since breaking one of the 10 commandments must be a sin of huge proportion, yet at least 6 out of 10 of the commandments are not Consti.tutionally acceptable. There will never be any laws against them and people in this country are free to ignore them completely. You are focused on a few other little issues with barely any mention in the bible, yet you do not care that the 10 commandments are routinely ignored. Only the few universal portions of the commandments are acceptable. The ones any civilized people have always followed anyway.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • Dan

      Don't worry. We free thinkers have no idea how "christians" can vote for a party that wants to strip health care from children, start a new war to kill millions every few years, destroy the environment, support churches full of money changers, and pour millions into political ads while people down the street are going hungry and homeless. Your Jesus would be ashamed.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:16 am |
    • ladyofthelake

      Why? I challenge you to show me ONE place where Jesus tells us to legislate morality. By the way, the book Jesus always quoted was Deuteronomy – not Leviticus which is the book evangelicals are always quoting. Jesus did not use Leviticus because it was Nazerite law and not meant for the general population – only a religious sect that was set apart. When the church sticks with Jesus Christians are ok. When they wander off into laws from Leviticus trouble begins. There was a reason Jesus did not use Leviticus – so why are people quoting it now?

      November 16, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  12. John Bunyan

    Before the beginning of time, God determined every event that would ever happen in human history, ever.

    And when I suffer (as I will), this knowledge will be a great comfort to me. Jesus. Is. Beautiful.

    November 16, 2012 at 2:47 am |
    • The One True Steve

      So then according to you ... There is no free will ... because you said everything has already been determined... hmmmmm

      November 16, 2012 at 2:58 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Newton also believed in occultism and numerology. Remember that he lived in a time when NOBODY understood GRAVITY. He explored all kinds of ideas. That openness to new experience was part of his genius. But he's remembered today not for his contributions to religion (which were non-existent) but for his scientific discoveries, which were monumental. Don't insult our intelligence by pretending he had anything remotely authoritative to say about religion.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:21 am |
    • Roscoe Chait

      Thanks for taking all the beauty and mystery out of life. I can happily and boringly die now.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:44 am |
    • pasta

      That is so such a sad way to live! There is no god, there is no destiny. You are responsible for your life. Non-religious make up 20% of the population in america. The quicker we give up these ridiculous, childish beliefs in imaginary sky daddies, the better we will all be.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:47 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      John: Just replace god with Zeus or any other fictional character name and then tell us what you said makes any sense. If you're so certain you are right, back up your claims (the buybull doesn't count) and if you can't then please seek some medical help for your mental health issues...people like you should not be roaming the streets freely, you truly are a danger to society.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:43 am |
  13. beatnikbc

    perhaps this can be viewed as a small step to finally separate church and state.

    November 16, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  14. Beth

    If you are christian you aren't rellgiously unaffiliated. Doh.

    November 16, 2012 at 2:26 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Many Christians are non denominational.

      November 16, 2012 at 2:38 am |
    • Howard

      You're confusing belief in a particular faith with belonging to a particular church.

      November 16, 2012 at 2:46 am |
    • ScottLL

      Beth didn't say denominationally unaffiliated. Religiously unaffiliated means; not Christian or not Hindu or not Muslim...

      November 16, 2012 at 2:47 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Nor did the article claim anything like that, as the literate among us have already realized.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:23 am |
  15. Bj11

    There were also a large number of voters who are religious, but not fundamentalist Christian. Obama did not insult believers who were outside the narrow Christian definition. I am of an entirely different religion. I voted for Obama because I felt his respect.

    November 16, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • wmn

      You will also feel his sting. He is anything you want him to be as long as he gets your vote. Now that he really has nothing to lose, let the true colors show.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:20 am |
    • Leif

      @wmn: Romney changed his position so many times that he wasn't anything that anyone wanted him to be.
      Romney had no idea of who he was, and he still doesn't.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:33 am |
  16. rosethornne

    A reality-based system of ethics trumps a fantasy-driven power-grabbing collection of so-called morals any day.

    November 16, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • Christian

      Is there anything in reality that you have never considered that is real?

      November 16, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  17. toydrum

    "...Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s coalition was overwhelmingly white and Christian, with 79% of Romney voters identifying as such."

    What percentage of that 79% that identified themselves as Christians engaged in vicious rhetoric and hate speech against their neighbors that didn't agree with them? Anyone that uses their personal ideas of Christianity as a club to beat others with certainly doesn't follow the same Christianity I believe in.

    November 16, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • Bj11

      Romney is not Christian. Do your homework

      November 16, 2012 at 2:09 am |
    • GaryB

      I used to work with an evangelical christian who used to pray for the apocalypse every day so that she could laugh at the "sinners" as they burned. That's not a joke, that's how she really felt. Oh, and she was a proud Republican too.

      November 16, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • OldYgg

      Of course Romney is Christian. They just believe in the angel Moroni after Jesus came and Christianized a portion of the native Americans and talked to wossname – John Smith and said among other things that people can be Jesus-like.

      November 16, 2012 at 2:28 am |
    • gulpoff

      Rafalca is an atheist.

      November 16, 2012 at 2:30 am |
    • ScottLL

      Seems like there is a lot of antichristian hate speech and vicious rhetoric going on here. Also, 2/3 of Christians think Mormons are also Christians, but then it isn't up to them to judge either.

      November 16, 2012 at 2:42 am |
    • Howard

      @ ScottLL ... do you suppose there's any connection between all the hate speech directed at "Christians" and the fact that so many so-called Christians publicly deviate from Christ's teachings while proclaiming they're his followers?

      November 16, 2012 at 2:52 am |
    • ScottLL

      Howard, It sounds like you are saying that if you are a member of group A it is OK to talk hate about group B because there are people in Group B who talk hate about Group A. Are you a big enough person to stop your hate talk?

      November 16, 2012 at 3:07 am |
  18. BPepik

    April 2013, CNN Situation Room LIVE:

    Dollar collapses
    Unemployment 10%
    Double-dip recession is here
    Negative GDP growth
    Rating of US Credited lowered to B+

    President Obama blames his predecessor from 4 years ago..!

    November 16, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • redzoa

      You forgot FEMA concentration camps for conservative Christians, Islamic takeover and gays stealing and marrying heteros in their continuing effort to destroy traditional marriage...

      November 16, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • GaryB

      Actually, the Romney/Ryan austerity combined with more tax cuts for the already rich plan would've been more likely to lead to 10% unemployment and a double dip recession (as evidenced by how such plans have worked in Greece and Spain). However, if the GOP house doesn't get off their behinds and actually do their jobs and manage the debt ceiling, a B+ credit rating is possible.

      November 16, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • Newt Gingrich

      It really is Reagan's fault!

      Bush simply finished what Reagan started because Reagan's policies were interrupted by Clinton.

      November 16, 2012 at 2:11 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Romney's austerity and the EU's austerity are two completely different things. With Romney, cuts in public expenditure would also have come with tax cuts, which is a traditional conservative economic plan. In Europe, public expenditure cuts also come with massive tax hikes, resulting in people being double fuc.ked. The EU's austerity does not work. Traditional conservative austerity has been proven to work in the past. It's a pity Romney didn't realize that we aren't still in the 12th century socially, because this country needs economic conservativism.

      November 16, 2012 at 2:18 am |
  19. J2

    Unrelated to anything: an uplifting (and non-crazy) American story.


    November 16, 2012 at 1:35 am |
  20. zaphed

    I love it. We finally are becoming a force to reckon with. Long live atheists and their free will to believe in what ever they want. And of course, God, lol, bless america.

    November 16, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      It's still not a voting bloc though. The idea that a bunch of people who only share one (dis)belief can create a voting bloc is ridiculous.

      November 16, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • Mirosal

      It's also ridiculous to think that an entire SPECIES can be made from two, and ONLY two viable beings (read: Adam and Eve)

      November 16, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      What does that have to do with anything?

      November 16, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • Mark From Middle River

      From the article: "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."

      I do not see a force, unless you are counting these Religious as part of your group.

      November 16, 2012 at 1:44 am |
    • Beth

      We sure aren't counting you as part of our group, little Markie. Now go play in the far corner of the field with the uncool kids.

      November 16, 2012 at 2:28 am |
    • The Pick Man


      Atheism isn't about 'free will to believe in what ever [you] want'; that's religion. It is not believing in that for which there is no proof.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:17 am |
    • ScottLL

      the Pick Man, a double negative is a positive.

      November 16, 2012 at 3:25 am |
    • CookieMonster

      Zaphed, the "free will to believe in what ever (you) want" is not atheism. If you believe in something, or anything at all really, then you're not an atheist.

      Pick Man, "not believing in that for which there is no proof" is not atheism, it's agnosticism.

      What's the average age and intellect of respondents to this thread? Are we still in high school rebelling against our parents here? If you want to be an atheist, then be one *after* you discover yourself and actually feel that mindset with all of your being. As of now, it sounds like many are just trying to come across as hip by arguing something they don't really get in the first place.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:55 am |
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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.