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.
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!