Life Recap and this Blog Moving Forward

I had a busier summer than I expected between an unexpectedly higher volume of work, some travel, and vacations. While my writing has made a comeback lately, it has not happened in this blog.

Here’s a summary of my work in the last 6-months(ish):

  1. Spoke at Skepticon 11 where I
    1. Released the topline results of the Secular Voices Survey (a nationally-representative survey of nonreligious Americans about various social and political matters).
    2. Introduced the Secular Voices Panel (a monthly survey of secular Americans about the 2020 elections, visit the link, we’re still recruiting)
    3. Announced the Indiegogo fundraising campaign for the project (You can still help)
  2. Wrote a few reports and analyses based on the Secular Voices Survey:
    1. Secular Identity, Belief in God, and 2020 Preferences (about candidate preferences in 2020 [In my company research blog in Medium])
    2. Voter Registration and 2020 Vote Intention (about how candidate preferences vary by voter registration status [in the Medium blog]).
    3. The Importance of Organized Secularism in Politics (about variation in political engagement by affiliation in secular organizations [in The Humanist]).
  3. Started writing for Religion in Public, a collective of political science experts in religion and politics. My first post:
    1. Rising Secularism and the Vanishing Latinx Republicans (Explores how the declining number of Republicans among Latinx people is not just about “immigration politics” but also because the pool of religious conservative Latinxs is declining).
  4. Started a new monthly column in The Humanist: ‘Nonedecision 2020‘ about nonreligious Americans and electoral politics. The first entry:
    1. Nonedecision 2020: Four Decades of the None Vote (analysis of how nones have voted for president since 1980.

The future of this blog

It seems that I have rearranged my writing into various camps: work-related research can be found at my company blog in Medium; more scholarly-type writing in Religion in Public; and movement-related political analysis in The Humanist. Initially, I wanted this blog to serve as a hub for that.

Instead, I will make this a more personal blog. I think it will fit better with the social justice angle of the collective. Expect rants about children’s shows. I have various theories and have spent a lot of time overthinking about gender relations in Thomas the Tank Engine, deconstructing my child’s favorite singers and bands, as well as discussions of race in the current political context…possibly about the election when these don’t fit any of my other writing outlets. Some of these will be in Spanish since many of my child’s favorite songs and books are in that language and audience-wise makes more sense.

That’s it for now….

Life Recap and this Blog Moving Forward

See you in Skepticon 11!

Hey everyone! So excited to announce that I will be speaking this summer at Skepticon 11! It will be held the weekend of August 9th, 10th, and 11th at the City Center Hotel in downtown St. Louis, MO. 
Skepticon is a skeptic/science/activist/community conference that is held annually in St Louis, MO. Their mission of Skepticon to support, promote, and develop free-thought, skeptic, and scientific communities through inclusive educational programming, and with an expressly social-justice oriented philosophy.
Skepticon is also the largest FREE skeptic conference in the nation, and quite possibly the universe. With the dedicated of a small team of volunteers and the support of community members such as yourself, they are able to host an absolutely FREE yearly event. 

Please join me this August — I can’t wait to see you there!


Undercounting Secularism in Congress

As it has become customary at the beginning of a new Congress, the Pew Research Center released its Faith on the Hill report.  Our elected officials at the national level have been slow to catch up to the country’s secularizing trend. The report shows only one “religiously unaffiliated” elected official, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. While New York’s Ed Kilgore is too optimistic about the religious diverity in Congress, it represent a major step forward. In the U.S. Senate, that bastion of American conservatism, there is a “none.”

But the CQ Roll Call survey of members of Congress that informs Pew’s report undercounts the secularity of its respondents. In the case of California Rep. Jared Huffman, he’s been added to the “don’t know/refused” category. Though Pew acknowledges in the text that Huffman “identifies as a humanist.”

Then there are two cases that show even more complexity. One is a current member of the House, another is a former member. Current Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) identifies as Jewish in the survey, but he also identifies as a humanist according to the Center for Freethought Equality. There’s also the case of former Rep. Pete Stark (D-California). Pew included some trends to show how faith on the Hill has changed over time. A few of those periods include the tenure of Stark who served for 40 years. Stark identified as a Unitarian during his whole career but he acknowledged late in his tenure that he was an atheist, something that is not uncommon among Unitarians. The Pew Landscape Survey of 2014 finds that nearly 1-in-5 Unitarians (and people belonging to other liberal faiths) do not beleive in God. Stark’s atheism is mentioned in a footnote in the report, but still means that people with nontheistic backgrounds are undercounted among elected officials by surveys that conflate religion with belief in the supernatural. These surveys measure belonging to a community, not necessarily what the people believe. The current way of reporting religion in Congress makes secular people even more invisible than they are in the national legislative body.


Undercounting Secularism in Congress

All the Candidates Endorsed by the Freethought Equality Fund in Two Maps

It’s been two weeks since Election Day. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that 47 openly nontheist or humanist candidates were elected into office this year. In this post I show where they are, their religious identification, and how all the candidates that were endorsed in this cycle fared.

The maps are the continuation of my project scraping the bios of candidates in the Freethought Equality Fund website. I previously ran some preliminary analysis just with the candidates running in the General Election.

Each dot in the maps represents one candidate. WordPress doesn’t allow me to embed the maps well. Click on the map picture and you will be able to scroll through the dots.  They have the following information:

  1. Name
  2. Office the candidate was seeking
  3. State
  4. Election outcome
  5. Secular Identity

The dots are both colored: Green represents local offices, orange representstate legislative offices, and purple represents federal legislative offices. The darker the shade, the higher the office, for exmaple, light orange is used for US House candidates and dark orange is used for US Senate candidates. The dots also vary in size, the smallest dot represents local (board of education) candidates, the largest dot represents US Senate candidates.

One last thing about secular identity. As I mentioned in my previous post on this topic, I simplified the identities of the candidates because many had very complex ones (see also Hemant’s post about the candidates before Election Day) .My broad categories are:

  1. Secular/Humanist: Secular or humanist (or secular humanist)
  2. Non believer: includes atheist, agnostic, non-theist, non-believer
  3. Not religious: Includes nones, not religious, not practicing a religion, spiritual but not religious
  4. Did not state: Person did not specify if thy had a religious preference
  5. Religious ally: A person who identifies with a religion

Those who identify with both a religion and a secular identity are classified as secular.

Map 1: All Candidates

Map 2: Winning Candidates Only

Let me know what you think of the maps in the comments. I will be releasing more analysis as I continue cleaning the data.

All the Candidates Endorsed by the Freethought Equality Fund in Two Maps

Nones (and Allies) Running for Office

Tomorrow is Election Day. Hopefully, most of you will be voting or (like in my case) already voted. But many people will have the chance of voting for openly secular candidates or for religious people who support and embrace the nonreligious as allies. In this post, I conduct a short analysis of the candidate endorsed by the Freethought Equality Fund, a secular political action committee (PAC) that endorses secular candidates for office. This post is the last in my pre-election series on nonreligious political involvement (Part I, Part II).

I wrote a code in R to scrape and download the biographical text of the candidates who are (1) endorsed and (2) running in the General Election tomorrow. I removed any candidates who were endorsed earlier in the year but who lost a primary. Below, you can see a series of charts summarizing some of the characteristics of these candidates. You can scroll through the charts using the dots above them.


Overall, the PAC is endorsing 219 candidates running from offices ranging from school boards to the U.S. Senate. The first chart shows that nearly three-quarters (74 percent) are running for a seat in a state house while 16 percent are running for a seat in a state senate (or in the case of Nebraska, a unicameral legislature). In other words, nine-in-ten of the candidates endorsed are running for a state legislative office.

This number of candidates is an encouraging sign. The first class of endorsements in 2014 had only four state legislative candidates. The current number is 197, and even if all of them don’t win their races, those are the makings of a pipeline of secular and secular-friendly candidates with experience.

Eight percent of the candidates are running for the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate, and the final two percent are local candidates, most running for school board seats.

(Non)Religious Identification

The Freethought Equality Fund is a secular PAC, though not all the candidates are. In the second chart, I classify the religious identification of the candidates in four distinct categories. The “Secular ID” label means that the candidates identify as secular, or humanist, or atheist, or agnostic. A few of the candidates in this group also have dual religious/secular identities (such as secular Jews). A second nonreligious group, the “Not Religious” consists of those who call themselves nones or not religious but do not have a specific secular identity. The third group is the “Religious Ally” and consists of candidates who sought the FEF endorsement but who are not secular themselves. Finally, there’s a small but not insignificant group of candidates who refused to provide any religious identification.

A plurality of the candidates are religious allies. Thirty-five percent of the endorsed candidates identify primarily as religious. However, a majority of the candidates (58 percent) are openly nonreligious: 34 percent (similar to the number of religious allies) identify as secular, while just under one-quarter (24 percent) are nones. An additional seven percent did not identify as nither religious ally nor nonreligious.


The last chart shows that most of the candidates running for office are challengers or pursuing open seats. But one-fifth of them are incumbents seeking reelection. A plurality of those seeking reelection are religious allies. Overall, 25 percent of them (19 of 77) are seeking an additional term in office. But a similar proportion of the candidates with secular IDs are also current elected officials (15 of 75).

Where Are they Running?

Finally, here’s a map of the United States showing where the candidates are running and how many candidates are in each state by type of office. Just mouse over the state and the information will appear.

To see the candidates and wether one of them is in your ballot, visit the Freethought Equality Fund website. Also, remember…if you haven’t vote yet: VOTE!

Nones (and Allies) Running for Office

How the Nones Vote

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about how the nones vote in Presidential Elections. Generally, the nones are more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate than for the Republican candidate. In all elections since 1984, a majority of the nones have favored the Democratic candidate (a plurality narrowly voted for Jimmy Carter in 1980 over Ronald Reagan in a year where Independent John Anderson received 16 percent of the nones’ vote).

In 2016, the pattern continued with a majority of nones voting for Hillary Clinton. According to the New York Times analysis of Exit Polls, nones’ support for the Democrats peaked in 2008 when 75 percent voted for Barack Obama. Nones’ support for Democrats has been greater than 67 percent in the Exit Polls this century.

Last week I estimated voter turnout among the nones using the CCES. This week, I use the same data to understand the nones’ voting patterns in 2016. The data in the 3rd tab show that the nones supported the Democratic Clinton over the Republican Trump by a two-to-one margin (62 percent vs. 30 percent). While this is lower than the Exit Polls total, it is still in line with what we know about the nones. And because the CCES has a better measure of non-religion than the Exit Polls, I prefer the CCES’s validated vote number over the Exit Poll.

Comparing the nones to other religious groups (Tab IV) show that they were the most likely to vote for Clinton, along with non-Christian religious people such as Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims. Born-again Protestants were the opposite of the nones, preferring Trump over Clinton by a similar two-to-one margin. Considering that the nones and the evangelical Protestants have constituencies of similar sizes, this means that these groups essentially balance each other.

Tab V shows that the nones accounted for nearly 4-in-10 Clinton voters (37 percent). Born-again Protestants accounted for roughly one-in-three Trump voters (34 percent). The nones just accounted for one-fifth of the Trump vote.

One pattern that remains, the nones were also the largest group supporting third party candidates. Like 1992, 1996, and 2000, the nones have been a major source of votes for candidates like Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, and in the case of 2016, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.

How the Nones Vote

The Nones and Voter Turnout

The 2018 Midterm Elections are just two weeks away, but in some states early voting already started. If my social media feeds are any indication, nonreligious people are very motivated to vote this year. However, considering that people in my feeds are very engaged politically to begin with, they may not be the best indicator of political participation among the nones.

Common wisdom suggests that the nones are a population that punches well below their weight when it comes to voting. An oft-quoted figure comes from a 2016 PRRI report comparing the religious makeup of the electorate in Exit Polls and the religious makeup of the population.

Source: PRRI

In 2016, the nones accounted for 15 percent of voters in the National Exit Polls, while they represented one-quarter of the adult population. If we were to translate that into actual numbers (with the help of the United States Elections Project (USEP)), turnout was a dismal 34 percent. According to the USEP, there were about 250 adults in the United States in 2016. Twebty-five percent represent 62.5 million nones in the adult population. The USEP says that about 139 million people cast a vote in 2016. If 15 percent of those voters are nones that means some 21 million. Compared to the 54.7 percent overall turnout estiamted by the USEP, that’s awfully low.

That’s bad, though we shouldn’t use Exit Polls to estimate turnout. As the folks as Latino Decisions have argued for year, the Exit Polls are not a very trustworthy way of analyzing the electorate, especially when it comes to Latinxs. The Poll does give some useful information….but it has many issues. In our case is that (a) we don’t know how representative is the overall sample of none voters in the Exit Polls, and (b) the Exit Polls may be undercounting nones for a couple of reasons. (for more on Exit Poll methodology, read this entry from the Pew Research Center).

First, it only asks people if they have no religion: “none” is a response option (I don’t know if they have changed the way the ask the question recently, but working with some older one, that’s the way it was asked…if someone can find a link to the actual questionnaire and send it my way, I’d love that since I can’t find it online). Asking just for “nones” may leave some people who consider themselves atheist or agnostic. Second, people may be less willing to admit in a face-to-face survey that they have no religion.

Fortunately, the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) exists. The survey included a sample of about 65,000 adults and about 50,000 answered a post-election follow up. In the charts below I compare the nones (a combination of atheist, agnostic, and nothing in particular) with other religious groups. Born-again Protestants are those who identify as Protestant and evangelical, while Mainline Protestants are those who don’t identify as Born-again. Other Christians include Mormons and Orthdox, Non-Christian are those who are religious but are not Christian or nones.

The 2016 CCES validates voters with the Catalyst database and gives some idea of how groups voted.  In this definition of turnout I count those whose votes are validated as “voters” and those who are not validated as “nonvoters.”

Using this calculation, the nones punch below their weight, but not as bad as the Exit Poll/PRRI poll comparison suggests. They represent about 31 percent of the adult sample and 28 percent of voters. This suggests, as the second tab below shows, that about half of nones voted, compared to 54 percent of the public. They are still far below the turnout of most Christian groups, but not dramatically off from the general population numbers.

Nones probably have a turnout problem. But it may not be as bad as the Exit Poll analysis suggests. We should also take into account that nones are younger than any other religious group, so that’s probably something to be aware of. Young people (under 30)  have the lowest turnout of any age cohort. Hopefully campaigns like #Atheistvoter and #SecularVoter can help boost some of these numbers.

The Nones and Voter Turnout

Latinx Nones: Tomorrow

This post closes our three-part series on Latinx nones. According to Pew nearly one-third of Latinxs under the age of 30 (in 2014) identified as nones. Only 36 percent said they were Catholic and about one-in-four were Protestant. In fact, Latinxs under 30 are almost three times more likely to identify as nones compared to Latinxs over 50 (32 percent vs. 12 percent).

If we look at the age distribution of religious groups among Latinxs, we see how young Latinx nones are. While all religious groups have similar proportions of people between 30 and 49 years of age, the nones are by far the youngest: 43 percent under age 30. Only one-in-five Catholic Latinxs are under 30.

Latinx Nones: Tomorrow

Latinx Nones: Yesterday

Last week I showed that 1-in-5 Latinxs are nones, representing roughly 8 million Latinx adults in the United States. Today, in the second post of this three-part series, I show where Latinx nones come from. The vast majority of Latinx nones reported in the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape survey that they were raised Catholic when they were children. When adding up all the Christian groups, about 8-in-10 Latinxswho identify as nones were raised in a Christian tradition.

Click here to see the whole series.

Latinx Nones: Yesterday

Latinx Nones: Today

We’re in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month. This is a good time to remember that there are a lot of Latinx nones in the United States. One-in-five, to be precise, according to PRRI. Just less than a decade ago, my former colleagues at the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (PRRI) found that 12 percent of Latinxs were nones.  In just nine years, the nones have increased 67 percent in the Latinx population and roughly doubled from about four million, to more than eight million people. Below is a short infographic.

Next week, I’ll be writing about the past of Latinx nones. Where do the come from?

Click here for full series

Latinx Nones: Today