Why Don’t “Nones” Vote?

Adding a bit more context to my post from this morning: Pew has analyzed the exit polling data and found that the religious composition of the electorate has remained pretty much the same over the past three midterm cycles (2006, 2010, and 2014). White evangelicals made up 24% of the electorate in 2006, 25% in 2010, and 26% this year, a slight uptick.

But the nones, the much-discussed segment of the population that is supposedly going to shift our politics away from the control of religious conservatives, has turned out steady percentages of voters over the last three cycles (11%, 12%, and 12%, respectively), despite growing as a segment of overall population.

Based on a 2012 Pew survey, I wrote two years ago:

there are now as many “nones” as there are white evangelicals – each makes up 19% of the US population. But the generational trends are traveling even more starkly in a non-theist direction: 32% of 18 to 29 year-olds are unaffiliated, and 42% of those describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. That’s over ten points higher than the 21% of 30- to 49-year-old “nones” who describe themselves that way, and more than twice the 15% of 50- to 64-year-old “nones” who do.

These are national numbers, obviously, and there greater numbers of evangelicals and fewer “nones” in some states than others. But, as I noted this morning, the evangelicals, at least in the midterms, are winning the turnout game.

  • jfigdor

    Gee, maybe it has something to do with the fact that there were only 2 openly atheist candidates, Juan Mendez and Jason Woods. As more non-believers run for office and religious people become less bigoted towards nontheists, the nones will start to turn out in greater and greater numbers.

    Right now, many nones are pissed because even the Democrats can’t help but prostrate themselves before faith and flag, taking part in “days of prayers,” ending speeches with “God bless America,” and endlessly injecting their personal sectarian religious faith into conversations about the public good. Give the nones a candidate opposed to those things to vote for, and guess what, they’ll turn out.

  • Jim Reed

    Maybe they just don’t see the difference. Maybe as things develop, some day they will see and be more likely to vote.

  • Buff LO Bill

    They don’t vote and they don’t have children. They won’t be anything but a memory by the end of this century.

  • GeniusPhx

    by nature ‘nones’ are not joiners. they are neutral on church state issues or anything that might make them go to the polls. wont pick a religion, wont take a stand, dont care what others think, that’s why they are nones.

  • Corey

    i assume because most none live is non-red states, meaning have less of a fear of having their politicians trying to make christianity the state or country religion and all that goes along with wacko religious folks. if u remove christianity from the picture, all other issues generally go the way of the nones: equality for all, helping others, etc. this is just a generalization ofcourse, bit i am also from MA, so I see it first hand. though we have out nut bags, some of the worse here, like mr. lively who ran for gov, and have had a past full of them like mitten and heck even the puritans were the worse of the worse back when, but even the repubs, for the most part, just go along with the dems, and let me tell u, most are for equality for all, but they are also DINOs as they are called. dont let the fact that gay marriage has been successful here for the last decade, it doesnt mean the “liberal” state doesnt have fake liberals like kerry who makes big bucks off war and from my research. more than half the dems on political positions in boston are not liberals, in fact all the local papers helped get baker the repub to win the recent election for gov and last year, they endorsed a karl rove backed dem for mayor, one the repubs were saying would be the best dem mayor for the repubs, however her lost. but all the rich areas votes for him and called his opponent anti-business because he was pro-union, that is, dems were using being pro-union as a negative to try and get one dem to win over the others. thats dems.

  • Mr. Moose

    I agree. I suspect general complacency – perhaps a lack of understanding as to how government is supposed to work as well.

  • FrJesusGaylord

    Not if we get lucky and the rapture happens. Then the country will no longer be infested with disgusting filth like you.

  • DKeane123

    This is why I go door to door for atheism.

  • BeeSmart

    Has it occurred to anyone that so called religiously affiliated people vote as a civic duty and NOT as an expression of their religious”values?” Many issues that effect families, jobs and quality of life should be universal. Hopefully shifting our policies away from religious conservative values is not the sole concern of the 12 % you speak of. In fact is in SOME instances there is an overlap and agreement on political views between every American. The Balkanization by political pundits, the MSM and very liberal people may not be as hard and fast as many on the left believe.

    Sure some issues are divisive and little common ground tread. Some broader things like economy, government overreach, individual freedom and taxes could result in common voting patterns. Political junkies and experts love to put all their little constituent groups into boxes and declare which way they will vote.

    The mid-term elections are generally about local politics either statewide or county and citywide. They reflect their populations and the very local concerns. Every 4 years there is a national election cycle where turnout is maximized. Again sometimes the issues are overlapping where religious, non-religious and outright and atheists agree enough to vote somewhat the same. The dreaded evangelicals do not vote in a vacuum. Their beliefs are sometimes left outside the voting booth. This might be true of all the “defined” voting blocs.

  • BeeSmart

    You may go door to door but are you sure how they will vote?

  • BeeSmart

    Given the facts about the percentage of people who say they have a religious POV and or affiliation it will be a long uphill climb. My guess is less and less people each generation will actually care about theist or non-theist designation when voting. The problem will still be selecting a decent, honest and “moral” candidate without the usual “signposts.” Political candidates often used religion, faith and other “shorthand” to accent their group identity. Like race or ethnicity it drew people based on external measures and indicators that voters could flock to without having to think too much.

  • Jim Reed

    My experience is as the church became more Republican in the last 50 years, those in my family also became more Republican. I think there is a strong tendency to follow the group, even as they resist this analysis and claim not to be following the group. One unfortunate aspect of this is today’s Republican party is so much worse than the Republican party of 50 years ago, so as they were more closely following Republicans, they were also decaying along with the party.

  • Andre M

    They/we are also growing in numbers. It’s not like it’s a movement that people are rallying around that will die out when its leader is gone. There will always be more nones, and if they’re not the children of nones, they’re going to be your children.

  • BeeSmart

    If there are two populations, one with no children and the other with many children which group do you think will be passing their values and morality on to the next generation? Just ask the demographers.

    Hispanics and Muslims are fast growing populations. The so called DINK’S and others without children, just judging by numbers alone, might in fact be marginalized within a generation or two. In any event they will not be a growing population. No value judgment intended just demographics.

  • Andre M

    Okay, but where did the nones come from in the first place? And why can’t that source continue to contribute to a nones presence in the future?

  • FrJesusGaylord

    Like I said, it’s going to be a much better world when filth like you are blowin’ jesus.

  • cgosling

    Nones like to feel they are “above” the BS they see all around them. They reject religion and politics and therefore are not involved enough in society to vote. Admittedly, there is too much BS in America including both parties, but this is certainly not enough reason to stand on the sidelines as the nation goes down the tubes. Nones need to get involved and when necessary vote for the lesser of two evils, which is the Democrat party.

  • BeeSmart

    Your analysis of the Republican Party is probably correct from your POV. Problem is most critical analysis takes place by individuals who have an antipathy toward ALL Republicans.

    There seems little critical analysis of the other party. What has happened to the Democrat Party since the left wing domination since the 1970s and onward. The so called “bluedogs” have been purged. The middle of the spectrum Dems. cowered. Anyone challenging far left orthodoxy shouted down and on and on. Unworkable programs and policies bullied through Congress as well as a complete refusal engage in self analysis has driven many to independent registration and Libertarian Party. In the frenzy to bash Republicans many have been inattentive to the contradictions within their own institution. Decay does not happen in a vacuum and touches all institutions that exist or are in stasis.

  • Andre M

    I’m not sure nones necessarily like to feel they are “above” the BS (or that that is the nature of their uninvolvement). I think it could just as easily be a real indifference or distrust or jadedness or cynicism as it could be some sort of self-important posturing.

  • Andre M

    I’m not too familiar with these “far left” Democrats you’re talking about.

  • BeeSmart

    When you are standing within the forrest it is often difficult to see the trees.

  • Andre M

    I could say the same to you. The recent hijacking of the political conversation by those who are really on the spectrum of the extreme right has made it hard for people to tell the difference between a moderate and a liberal anymore.

  • Jim Reed

    I have an antipathy toward all Republicans. The biggest issue is the gap between those at the top of the scale and the rest of the population has grown about 10 fold over the last few decades. ALL republicans ignore this and try to direct the conversation to other issues. I also understand the Democrats have problems, they can do things we don’t like, and they can be on both sides of the issues and fighting themselves. At least they are partly trying to make things better. The Republicans don’t have those problems. They are totally united at helping the rich get more rich compared to the rest of us.

  • Jim Reed

    Those from the traditional center are now considered far left.

  • Deist1737

    Nones see the BS in both religion and politics and don’t want any part of it. Voting for the lesser of two evils is wrong because you’re still promoting evil. Perhaps one day the nones will help bring about a revolution.

    Things in the US seem to have gotten to the point Thomas Jefferson warned about when he wrote, “From the conclusion of this war (the Revolution) we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.”

    Jefferson also wrote, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

    Progress! Bob Johnson
    http://www.deism.com

  • BeeSmart

    Maybe we are all shrouded in the fog of partisanship. The trench warfare currently being waged often does not allow a thoughtful view of the overall “battlefield.” Programs, policies and ideas become secondary to the daily scrum. Politics at its worst?

    Maybe Democracy is a dynamic, disorderly and dirty engine that pulls the train of America down the tracks. Building a more streamlined and clean engine might take an abandonment of the trenches of ideology and a willingness to expose ones self to an “other POV!”

    We have been chugging along through the best of times and the worst for over 250 years. If we maintain a balanced approach, a respectful happy warriors outlook and understand that we are all here for a VERY limited time maybe the inevitable change wrought by every generation can be accomplished without the usual personal carnage.

  • BeeSmart

    A chiche seldom has more then a grain of truth within it. I know many republicans and conservatives who complain about the same “issues” and have little interest in making the rich any richer.

    If by making things better you mean redistributing wealth the problem is it is NOT the rich but the middle class the Democrats have been burdening with their programs. It is middle class children being crushed by the cost of education, lack of employment and generations of affirmative action.

    Wall St. seems untouchable by either Party. Both feed at the trough of “contributions.” It seems as Christ observed “the poor will always be with us,” the same can be said for the rich. It seems of little note that OUR poor are doing better them any other poor anywhere in the world. We surly can do better but the broadening of the rich class and their continued accumulation of wealth seems to be a problem that has always been solved by violent revolution. Then only for a short period and it starts over again.

    Hugh swatches of the American population are “rich” by any standard. Someone might own three McDonald’s stores or a small chain of dry cleaners are they part of the problem? Is corporate wealth included? Numbers are easy to demonize but who and what are the people deemed as rich and what problems do they cause by their richness?

    I am sure the “rich” economic professors can give us chapter and verse about the 10% and the problems they cause. Actual solutions not so much. Many elected Congresspersons are rich. Attorneys and rule of law will make reversing the current flow of wealth difficult. It is a point many love to rile about but not one politicians want to actually do anything about. Other then talk that is.

  • DKeane123

    I’m not looking to control how someone votes – I’ll leave that to churches.

  • BeeSmart

    Touch a nerve. Is blowing anyone in your book “bad” since you seem to use it as an insult? Homophobic I guess. Maybe just self loathing.

    Your “much better” world might be better when anger filled, ad hominem attack dogs like you are on medication.

  • FrJesusGaylord

    It’s called Summers Eve. Let me know where I can send you a case.

  • BeeSmart

    The will but probably remain static and with influence being in numbers in a elections they MIGHT have less influence then they might want. Unless of course large parts of the expanding population become “nones” then it becomes a new ballgame. Many posting here will be long gone when whatever change coming down the road actually occurs.

  • Jim Reed

    Taxes on corporations are at record lows. Taxes on everyone are low. Now all levels of government are running out of money and they have to cut back, lay people off, cut pensions. Money is in short supply. Where did it all go?

  • NancyP

    Young people in general tend to pay less attention to politics, and are less involved in organizations, thus, harder to mobilize. Young people pay most attention to presidential elections, and are rather blase about mid-terms, state level elections.

  • BeeSmart

    Record lows??? We are led to believe America has the highest taxed corporations in the developed world. That is why many are moving overseas. Just spin by greedy corporations?

  • Jim Reed

    Lots of big companies don’t have to pay any taxes because they have the loopholes set up. Sometimes they need inversion, pretending to move overseas so that they can avoid taxes, and they all want to avoid all the taxes they can. Our government often lets them get away with it because they have paid to set the law up that way.

  • StuckNtexas

    As a former evangelical, now secular humanist, I can see how evangelicals would have more homogeneous viewpoints because they are conditioned to believe what they are told, The nones, however, lack that cohesiveness. Until we learn how to get a broad message out that will still motivate and energize people, we’re not going to be as effective as evangelicals at the polls,

  • Gaven

    I joined the military, and have been in for over 20 years.

    I join community projects, and have done so for over 20 years.

    I join group athletic activities, and have done so all of my life.

    I get together with like-minded atheists and discuss various political, world, social, and local topics from intellectual, rational, secular, and logical points of view.

    I vote, because I refuse to not have my voice heard.

    This is my nature…to join other like-minded individuals to serve a common goal, to take a stand, to vote my conscious against those who promote religion in politics, and to care about what others think and how they think.

    Atheists are NOT neutral on church state issues; we take a stand against the church interfering with politics and public policy and we are staunch advocates of keeping the church and government separate.

    Atheists do a tremendous amount to promote our point of view, despite our comparatively smaller numbers to theists, and to voice our collective stance against those who mean to oppress us, and others, with their pious fairy tales and faulty logic. Secular Coalition for America. Freedom from Religion Foundation. American Atheists. There are many other atheist groups. Look them up.

    Atheists, particularly those of us termed anti-theists, go to verbal and intellectual battle against theists to reveal the fallacies of their dogmatic beliefs. Why? Because we care about what others think and how they think. Christopher Hitchens. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris. Daniel Dennett. Jaclyn Glenn. There are many others. Look them up.

    Don’t effing tell me that “nones” are “not joiners”, that we don’t take a stand, or that we don’t care about what others think. Just because we don’t have the numbers or the raw financial power that theists do to promote their poisonous teachings, it doesn’t make us irrelevant, it doesn’t make us “non-joiners”, and it doesn’t mean we’re apathetic to what people think.

    You, “GeniusPhx”, have made the most ignorant and sophomoric post on the internet today. Congratulations.

  • skalt

    GeniusPhx has a point. His point is especially true with the working class. Speaking up in defense of non-belief doesn’t pay their bills or score them a better job. Volunteering doesn’t pay money. Speaking out is often a luxury. For this segment, the dollar bill can say “In God We Trust” all it wants because it’s still a dollar. You point specifically to Atheists, but none also includes a lot of other non-affiliated folks. Outside of anti-theists, you might as well try herding cats.

  • Mark Erickson

    The “nones’ category is worse than useless. It’s making us all stupider by using it. So people who used to say they had a particular brand of religion but never voted, are now no longer saying they are in any religion, but still not voting. So what?

    But the more immediate problem here is the lack of context. By clicking through and scrolling down, you can see than no group has changed more than 2% in share of the electorate. (White Protestants are a sub-group). So the story is that two of those groups has changed no more than 2%? If you say, but the “nones” are growing, see above again.

    And why is a 2% rise a slight uptick, but a 1% rise is steady?

  • BeeSmart

    Gee, what is the context of going door FOR atheism? Do you mean you are evangelizing for a belief system that excludes the idea of a “supreme being.” If so good for you. Everyone should hold personal beliefs they are willing to extol. Does that mean you understand, but strongly disagree, with door knocking Jehovah’s Witness’?

  • BeeSmart

    You are right. Wish current system of lobbying could outlawed. Maybe a unit of the FBI could be dedicated to overseeing this pernicious corruption prone practice.. A few big names in the dock might curb or ameliorate some of the excesses.

    Flip side is all Americans and businesses should have the ability to advocate for themselves with their elected representatives. Thorny problem.

    Lawyers as a group are responsible for many of the ills and injustices blamed on elected officials who often hide behind “legal advice” when dealing with lobbing firms.

  • Jim Reed

    I guess it is OK for businesses to advocate for themselves. I think it just became unbalanced when Christianity sold their soul to the party of the rich and became their lockstep voting block and stuck with it no matter how much they were being hurt by the policies of the rich to become more rich at their own expense.

  • Jim Reed

    That kind of fell apart under Gingrich as speaker of the house, and has only decayed since then. What you see as a fog of partisanship is just a cover up for seeing the truth, the rich have been winning.

  • Jim Reed

    Nones is not about who does or doesn’t vote. Nones is about who no longer sees value in church, and many of us do vote.

  • DKeane123

    You do realize that my initial comment was in jest – right?

    Also – I like that you use the term “require the suppression”, which sounds as if you are trying to lead me into saying that atheists are looking somehow ban religious ideas or thought. To use my own words (thank you very much), I think it is appropriate to use the public space to challenge dogmatic thinking.

  • andrew123456789

    If the religion of the candidate is the only thing these voters base their votes on, that’s pretty pathetic. There really are more important issues out there. Just because a politician kowtows to “national days of prayer” doesn’t mean they are against climate reform, for example. Priorities are vital, especially now.

  • “Nones” are not generally atheists . Most of the comments, here, fail to grasp that there generally four groups, all technically distinct, but often with overlap. There are “Nones,” then the “Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR)” (the personally most irritating of the bunch, from my perspective), then the “Agnostics,” and finally the “Atheists” (which can generally be divided into “new” and “old” atheists). It is “New Atheism” that is the most radical, activist, generally unfair, and even repugnant. Read Tibor Krausz’s “Atheists: A Rant” from 15 October 2013 on the “Killing the Buddha” website.

    SEE | http://bit.ly/Hi3FEG

    Somewhere in there (generally considered closest to atheists) are the Secular Humanists, who tend to be more reasonable and conciliatory.

    GAVEN WROTE: You, “GeniusPhx”, have made the most ignorant and sophomoric post on the internet today. Congratulations.

    MY RESPONSE: Far from it. GeniusPhx’s comment is dead-on, from a generalist standpoint… which is what polls and the reports which result are all about; and it is you who clearly thinks that your own situation and experience is typical of all “nones.” You might want to sit down and discuss those narcissistic tendencies with a psychologist.

    _____________________________
    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • BeeSmart

    Guess I was a bit dense. Long day.

  • NitPhx,

    “Nones” is a half-witted invention of a sleepwalking press.

    Atheists, agnostics, and members of non-traditional religions in my experience tend to be sharply in favor of the separation of church and state; better informed than average on political and social issues relevant to voting; and very often have cogent views which they are not afraid to express — or even question in conversation with others.

    I think the fact that you post anonymously may mean that you, nameless, are one of the “nones” you write about, and that your post is pure projection. It does not, however, have anything to do with other people out there in the real world.

    -dlj.

  • Tex,

    You’re the ex-evangelical, so you ought to know, but my impression is utterly different from yours: my impression is that religious fundamentalists and Biblical literalists are weirdly and wildly inhomogeneous in their beliefs.

    What do you see in common between the literalist snake waver of the Ozarks and the literalist blue-haired lady driving her Oldsmobile to a Mark Driscoll or Joel Osteen megachurch? They will fight you and me up and down because they know they love Jesus, oppose sin, and would rather not discuss mathematics because PI is uncomfortably likely to be 3.14159…, not three like it says in their various and differing Bibles.

    Their unity in opposition to you or me is the end of it. They agree on nothing more. Your snake handler wouldn’t be caught dead in an Oldsmobile, or at least in the front seat of one, and your little old lady in running shoes knows full well that your snake handler only stops drinking corn likker when he wants to shoot up meth.

    Not the same religions at all…

    Cheers,

    -dlj.

  • Huge numbers of young people are away from “home,” and are not registered to vote on the college campuses they’re just getting settled in on.

    -dlj.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    I suspect that a large percentage are millennials and millennials famously don’t vote either.

    Just listened to a fascinating series of stories on NPR regarding the most recent election. Among other things, it was the most punishing defeat environmental causes and candidates have suffered since there has been an environmental movement.

    The reason? Demographic analyses of the election indicate that Millennial voting was at an abysmal low, this even though Millennials routinely identify the environment as one of their top issues of concern.

    There is a strange kind of listlessness among the young today. It is almost impossible to imagine mass youth movements like you had just forty years ago, and despite the fact that at one level, nothing comparable is at stake — like being drafted to go to Vietnam — at another level, much more is at state, especially if you are young, liberal, and environmentally conscious. The Right today is much more powerful than it was in the 60’s. You’d think young people would notice…and care enough to act.

    I actually blame social media for quite a bit of this — it essentially provides the illusion of having done something, when in reality one hasn’t done a blessed thing. (Hashtag protests and the like.)

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Your anecdotal experience doesn’t speak to the averages on the whole, or to voting patterns, which don’t lie, no matter how many “effings” you throw in.

  • beulahmo

    I agree with you. And I believe that a lot of them are young and inexperienced; therefore as many of them age and gain experience, the justifications they offer for their apathy will fade as they look for practical ways to exercise agency — like organizing around specific policies or political groups or a political party.

    In other words, I think they “grow out of” their reasoning for non-involvement. After one settles into a career and puts down roots in a community, idealistic notions about “revolution, man!” start to seem very impractical.

  • Jim Reed

    What if they could vote on their phones?

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    So what you’re saying is that they are catastrophically stupid.

    Your “theory” — the stuff about lesser of evils being wrong, etc. — is just an excuse to justify doing nothing, while you deliberately allow the worst people to attain office.

    Why not just call it what it is — unconscionable apathy — rather than try to tart it up with theories and hand waving at history?

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    To much effort, huh? All that pushing buttons in a voting machine and stuff?

  • Deist1737

    Who do you think I’m saying is stupid?

    By refusing to take part in the scam of elections does not mean they are “doing nothing.” Some nones are doing nothing but many are trying to make the world a better place by helping others, volunteering, trying to build a more productive worldview, etc.

    Progress! Bob Johnson
    http://www.deism.com

  • Jim Reed

    The problem can be waiting in the lines.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    What good is what you describe, if the people making the laws and regulations and enforcing them do so in a manner that undermines everything you are trying to do?

    The absence of millennials at the polling station is the reason why these midterms saw the election of the most environmentally unfriendly congress and senate, since there has been an environmental movement. It’s all very nice that you would rather be volunteering picking up cans, but when the House and Senate start gutting environmental regulations, it won’t make much of a difference.

  • Gaven

    Anecdotal? I challenge you to walk even a 100m in my shoes and call my experiences anecdotal, let alone a full mile. What have you done in your life? I will venture to say nothing noteworthy and nothing in the way of sacrificing your life and freedoms for the greater good of your country.

    Coward. Nothing but a worthless, mouthy coward you are. Look at you, arm chair warrior, with nothing gained from your worthless life experiences. You want to balk at what I have given to my country? Try, and pale in comparison when contrasted against the nothing you have given on the same stage.

  • Aravis Tarkheena

    Every person’s personal experience is anecdotal, in that it is not representative.

    As for the rest, I think you forgot to take your Meds. Either that or you suffer from internet-tough-guy syndrome. The only person who looks like an ass after a self-important rant like that is you.