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 “The American religious and ethnic landscape is becoming increasingly diverse, and any campaigns relying on outdated maps are destined to lose their way.”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

    The "Religiously unaffiliated" did not propel Obama to victory. The bishop from Kolob propelled us to vote against him. The right wing tried to stick us with a corporate-raiding Mormon bsihop who has about as much empathy for the electorate as a does for a bucket of sand. Yeah, the draft-dodging bishop who intimates and threatens war twice a week–what a fine choice. Thanks Republicans. No, Obama didn't win because of the unaffiliated, Romney lost because we can still recognize a hyprocrite. Romney fell into that category every time he opened his bigoted mouth. The poor are someone else's concern. Our soldiers? Well, he failed to mention them or the wars his party foisted on us even once during the RNC. Not even once. What happened to all that "support our troops" of yore? Well, those soldiers are part of the 47%. They die to protect his interests–that's the way it's supposed to be. Romney's callous hypocrisy did him in. Nothing more.

    November 16, 2012 at 7:40 am |
  2. Richard

    Atheist are gay

    November 16, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • Mirosal

      And this is from your Christian point of view,, right?

      November 16, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • sam stone

      the religious are closeted

      November 16, 2012 at 7:40 am |
    • So sad

      Poor Richard, did your priest resist your advances?

      November 16, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  3. Alyssa

    "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."

    So I know this is what the quotation marks around "religious" is getting to, but calling non-religious people a category of religion is like callying baldness a hair style.

    November 16, 2012 at 7:32 am |
  4. ironwolf56

    Jeez the media can't stop its circle-jerk over getting O'Bummer reelected can they? We get it, he won, okay we don't need a dozen articles a day telling us all the demographics of his fan base.

    November 16, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • Steve

      Yeah, actually you do. Until you – the collective, republican-voting you – learn the lessons of this election, you will be doomed to repeat the mistakes you made this time, while your chances to ever again win the white house gets smaller and smaller with each passing election thanks to things like what this article covers, the changing racial demographics, etc.

      November 16, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • maybrick

      I am who God made me to be. If he/she wants to send me to an eternity of suffering just for fulfilling my nature then so be it.

      November 16, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Eric

      Im a progressive and i agree with you. CNN is running this demographics thing into the ground.

      November 16, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  5. Hugo

    The GOP lost because they became so fiscally extremist that they excluded the middle class.

    When the middle class is shrinking, working class folks are going to vote on economic lines. It doesn't matter if they are socially liberal or socially conservative. 59% of people who voted said that the economy was the most important issue. 55% of people who voted said that the system favors the wealthy.

    Social conservatism is thriving. The exit polls showed that social liberals accounted for only 21% of voters whereas social conservatives accounted for 35% of voters. That was despite more than 3 million Evangelicals voting in 2012 than those in 2008. But 26% of people who voted for traditional marriage voted for Obama because the GOP was seen to be against the middle class.

    November 16, 2012 at 7:29 am |
  6. Reality

    And now for the real reason BO won the election:

    Only for the new members of this blog-->>>>

    As noted many times before the election:

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And the irony:

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.


    November 16, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • Reality


      The reality of se-x, abortion, contraception and STD/HIV control: – from an agnostic guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

      Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. --

      The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

      : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill (8.7% actual failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% actual failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

      Added information before making your next move:

      from the CDC-2006

      "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

      And from:

      Consumer Reports, January, 2012

      "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

      Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

      "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

      Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

      The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use":

      – (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
      – (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)

      Followed by:
      One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
      Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
      The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
      Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
      IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
      Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

      Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

      November 16, 2012 at 7:32 am |
  7. Dystopiax

    And yet. – – – – This nation still has a Religious Test for the office of U.S. President. No person qualified to occupy the Oval Office will ever be the candidate chosen at a National Convention, who throws an atheist hat into the ring. The Religious Test is that you must =believe in God= or more correctly acknowledge a GOD that requires 1) submission, 2) obedience, 3) worship, and 4) propitiation in legal coin of the realm. And it will not help the polls for an atheist candidate to be hugged by Richard Dawkins.

    November 16, 2012 at 7:19 am |
  8. Mirosal

    te'sting te'st'ing

    November 16, 2012 at 7:12 am |
  9. ed188

    "the election results, show a fundamental moral realignment in this country.".........thank God.

    November 16, 2012 at 7:08 am |
  10. Great news.

    1 in 5 adult Americans that do not have a religion that means that their children will not be brainwashed into belief and the fear that goes with it.

    November 16, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  11. jason

    about time we hold these politicians responsible for promoting these earth based primitive religions that can't even come close to grasping the enormity of the universe or has to do with anything close to reality

    November 16, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  12. Bob

    None the less he believed in a designer however he said you coudl not know him. he was not a panthiest better agnostic.
    By the way dont ignor the historical person of Jesus Christ. He was either who he said he was "GOD" or he was a liar that fooled people for centuries.

    November 16, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, if he existed at all. A simple man...nothing more. He was a bit of a rebel in that he had ideas that ran contrary to orthadox Judaism and the result is Christianity...basically a cult off take. Consider him the Joseph Smith of his day.

      November 16, 2012 at 7:04 am |
    • Andrew

      Bob, You should do some real research on the historicity of jesus. There is a curious vacuum of evidence for the existence of even a man names jesus prior to 70AD who did anything like the magic that christians claim. It isn't just that the claims of divinity are mythical – the whole thing is a lie that got carried away. There was no jesus.

      But don't feel bad or scared – the fact that we would make up such a good character and admire him says better things about our nature.

      November 16, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • ambrose

      No, Jesus Christ never claimed to be God. That was added in to the New testament after his death (that he became God after he died, then later that he was God when he was born)

      November 16, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • Steve

      As others note, the historicity of Jesus is far from proven. Indeed, even many church historians now believe that Jesus never physically existed but was an amalgamation of myths and beliefs spun together from previous religions and the hopes and dreams of a wretchedly poor, mistreated and oppressed people.

      November 16, 2012 at 8:17 am |
  13. saggyroy

    This reads to me like "Obama didn't win, Romney lost!"

    November 16, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  14. GO_GOP

    Let's all pray ceaselessly in the coming 4 years so that our Lord can deliver us from evil. Pray and be saved. He loves you and is waiting for you with open arms in Heaven. Turn to Christianity.

    November 16, 2012 at 6:29 am |
    • Mirosal

      NO amount of prayer will help, nor will it change a thing as it CANNOT change anything, and this by your own beliefs.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • saggyroy

      "Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens" – Talking Heads

      November 16, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Yes, let's all chant religious mumbo jumbo nonsense to an imaginary sky fairy. So many ignorant, delusional people. But the tide is turning and logic, reason, objectivity and science will be the light that leads us out of ancient mythology and primitive superst!tion and into reality.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • Brandon

      I thought you were being satirical. Then I remembered I'm on cnn.com, not reddit.com. You're serious and I find that adorable.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • sam stone

      that's NOT satire?

      November 16, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Yeah, try praying. Mormons prayed and fasted for Romney and Christians prayed for McCain and Palin. The Sarah even stated "god will do what is right" regarding the election, implying that god will make sure McCain/Palin will be elected. LOL.
      Praying has no more efficacy that wishing real hard.
      A study was done on the efficacy of prayer for hospital patients. Some knew they were being prayed for and some did not. The only change in recovery rates was the group of people who knew they were being prayed for did worse! Apparently that knowledge was stressful when they were not recovering and resulted in worse results than the group who did not know they were being prayed for.
      Prayer has no more efficacy than wishing real hard.

      November 16, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • Steve

      So you prayed to God to put the right man in the white house. Why are you so unhappy with His answer? Do you think you know more than God?

      November 16, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  15. ray

    People who think rather than lemmings that follow blindly believing whatever their leaders reveal to them.

    November 16, 2012 at 6:29 am |
  16. topconservative

    I wouldn't say the non religious helped Obama. I would say that the religious hurt the GOP. It is clear that the more religious a person is the more they hate freedom. Religion(I am only talking about the middle eastern ones, Islam and christianity), makes people who would otherwise be good become evil.

    November 16, 2012 at 6:23 am |
    • UncleBenny

      "I wouldn't say the non religious helped Obama. I would say that the religious hurt the GOP."

      Either one is good news.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:36 am |
  17. znod

    Many things tilted the election in the President's favor. But, from a general perspective, there are a number of specific turn-off behaviors embraced by extreme or ignorant Repubs that will do much to keep the Repub party in the election dark for a long time. I mention some of them here: (1) their advocacy of the lunacy of the tea party, its absurd ideology, and its control over the Repub party; (2) their support the Repub religious that think that the Bible gives solutions to some of our most serious social issues and that God gives them personal directives to do this, that, or the other; (3) their zombie parroting of the thoughts of Repub "leaders and others that just say anything that might be damaging to the Dems without factual support or investigation (e.g., through chain emails); (4) their rejection of much of what science has proved true beyond a reasonable doubt and their complete lack of understanding of sound economic principles and the role of government in society; (5) their vileness, even hatred, towards anyone not seeing things the way they do; (6) their disdain for those not like them; and (7) their hypocrisy (e.g., their lies and distortions, and blind acceptance of things like "marriage is between one man and one woman," but not "until death do us part?").

    November 16, 2012 at 6:23 am |
    • UncleBenny

      Excellent summation. Thank you.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:36 am |
    • sam stone

      i agree. well said.

      November 16, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    November 16, 2012 at 6:16 am |
    • a dose of reality

      proove it. just saying your same bs over and over again doesn't make it real

      November 16, 2012 at 6:24 am |
    • Oh

      I prefer to take actions to try and effect a positive outcome.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:27 am |
    • UncleBenny

      I pray you go away.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:37 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Repeat troll Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things stated once again and again and again over and over; Ad Nauseum,
      "Prayer changes things"

      Earlier I challenged you to do something positive for humanity by praying to stop the international forced sëx trafficking of an estimatated 800,000 people.

      To wit,

      I see your prayers to stop the estimated 800,000 people who are forced into sëx traficking across international borders have not worked.
      Wait since prayer changes things that means you have not been praying to stop this scourge on humanity.

      Why won't you pray to stop this repulsive human abuse?

      Matthew 21:21:
      I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
      [A true believer can ask a mountain to throw itself into the sea, and it will be done. LOL!]

      Mark 9:23
      All things are possible to him who believes.

      Luke 1:37:
      For with God nothing will be impossible.

      John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

      John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

      John 14:14 If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.

      Nothing could be simpler or clearer than Jesus' promises about prayer in the Bible.
      So there you have it, straight from Jesus in the New Testament in clear, simple, and unequivocal terms.

      You are a sincere believer are you not?

      So go ahead and do it. Pray to god to eliminate forced international sëx traficking, bacterial disease, genetic disorders, war, famine, etc.

      In Matthew 21:21 Jesus states; I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt you can do anything including making a mountain throw itself into the sea. You do have faith and do not doubt, RIGHT? So do it.

      Or perhaps your faith is not really up to snuff and you know that so you do not pray to end these human scourges but instead only come up with your usual wimpy statements and name calling.


      November 16, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • Steve

      Only for the one doing the praying.

      November 16, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "John 3:16" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" is the degenerate.

      This troll is not a christian.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.-

      November 16, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  19. NavinJay

    Religion had a place, in the past, when we did not know how things worked so we made up stories to explain how things worked. Today we know how most things work. We have no need for imaginary stories about gods.

    November 16, 2012 at 6:16 am |
  20. Luis Wu

    Christianity is going the way of the Greek, Roman and Norse religions. Turning into the ancient mythology that it has in fact always been. This is the scientific age and we no longer need ancient mythology and primitive superst!tions. But of course there will always be ignorant people that aren't real bright, still clinging to it and refusing to accept reality.

    November 16, 2012 at 6:12 am |
    • Bob

      Nobody x nothing = everything is an equation that is irrational and moronic.
      "The universe demands a creator" – Albert Einstien

      November 16, 2012 at 6:27 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Wrong Bob. Einstein never said that. Einstein was a pantheist. Look it up.

      November 16, 2012 at 6:36 am |
    • UncleBenny

      "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings."


      November 16, 2012 at 6:39 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.