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