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
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Why the GOP is Obsessed with Nancy Pelosi

An excellent piece by Jeet Heer at The New Republic explores House Minority Leader (and former-and perhaps future-Speaker) Nancy Pelosi as the main obsession of GOP candidates in Congressional races. Below my favorite quote of the article, which somehow mirrors some of my thoughts on Pelosi.

Thomas Mann, of the Brookings Institution, has hailed her as the “strongest and most effective speaker of modern times” because of her success in securing stimulus funding in 2009 and overseeing the passage of the Affordable Care Act the following year. As Peter Beinart pointed out in this month’s Atlantic,even after being relegated to minority leader when Republicans took the House in 2010, she kept winning legislative fights. In the summer of 2015, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Republican Party launched a mammoth lobbying campaign to kill Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. Pelosi quickly secured the votes to prevent Republicans from overturning the agreement, thus checkmating the deal’s foes.”

That’s one of the reasons why Rep. Pelosi is so despised by the Right: she’s been quite good at her job if the job is defined by passing legislation. The article also touches on the fundamental misogyny of the GOP, not just in having the sexual harasser-in-chief as President, but as the Party that has very few women in their electeds’ ranks. But I will append that the Pelosi Derangement Syndrome is also the result of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton being out of the scene. There’s no other visible leader in the Democratic Party to try to hitch to the Party’s current crop of candidates.

Pelosi is a divisive figure even in the Democratic Party, where only half of voters have a favorable opinion of her and one-quarter have an unfavorable opinion, per the article. I personally think she should step down soon because the Democratic Party needs new blood. It doesn;t stop wih her, people ly Rep. Steny Hoyer should also get the boot sooner than later. However, I cringe when I hear a fellow Democrat, as some have told me recently, that Nancy Pelosi should retire “so the GOP has on one to attack.” Apparently the GOP attacks on Pelosi are all her fault, and the Republican Party will find no faults in whoever ends up succeeding her.

Why the GOP is Obsessed with Nancy Pelosi