In 2015, the “religiously unaffiliated” was identified as the largest faith demographic in the United States after Christians. Yet, despite this significant demographic share, there are almost no politicians who have no religious affiliation and certainly none who try to appeal to these Americans.
A new essay in The Atlantic by Emma Green proposes that this is because atheists and agnostics don’t vote.
There are at least two good explanations for this phenomenon. The first is that religiously unaffiliated Americans don’t vote. Another way of putting that is that young people don’t vote: According to the Public Religion Research Institute, 18-to-29-year-olds are three times as likely to be religiously unaffiliated compared to people over 65. Even though the religiously unaffiliated share of the American population has significantly increased from 14 to 22 percent between 2004 and 2014, the share of religiously unaffiliated voters only increased from 9 to 12 percent….
Scholars and journalists have long decried the civic apathy of the young. But at least in terms of religious demographics, it makes sense that there has not been a political revolution under the banner of irreligion: “Religiously unaffiliated” is a category popularized by pollsters.
As Green notes, the “religiously unaffiliated” is a catch-all demographics term, but not one representative of a cogent political group in the way that evangelicals or black voters tend to be.
In June, Pew Research published a list of “facts about atheists,” which shows that they actually make up just a quarter of the unaffiliated. The other three-fourths simply just say they are “nothing in particular” but does not necessarily mean they don’t believe in God or cling to pieces of religiosity from their youth, ditching the more troubling or boring stuff.
So, we’re still likely a very long way away from our first openly atheist president or anything. What do you think? Share your thoughts and reactions in the comments below.
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