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Non-Religious: The Voting Bloc Fueling Sanders Revolution

Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at Liberty University
Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at Liberty University.

White Evangelicals and other religious groups are the most influential voting blocs supporting the Republican Party1. They earned that influence by showing up at the polls election after election, helping the Republican Party gain control of both houses of Congress. It’s not an accident that the Republican Party strongly opposes women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.

Religiously unaffiliated Americans (atheists, agnostics and others) do not have that privilege despite representing a large segment of the population. A Pew Research survey in 2014 found that 23 percent of Americans are religiously unaffiliated. This number has seen a rapid growth of 42 percent since 2007.

The analysis below indicates that religiously unaffiliated Americans overwhelming support the Senator from Vermont, and by significant margins. Bernie Sanders won 11 out of 15 states with the largest population of religiously unaffiliated Americans. On the flip side, Hillary Clinton won 11 out of 15 states with the lowest share of religiously unaffiliated Americans.

Primary Results in 15 most and least religiously unaffiliated states.

The graph below also shows a correlation between the outcome in the primaries and the percentage of religiously unaffiliated voters in the states.

Religiously Unaffiliated and Primary Results graph

Limited data from exit polls also confirm this analysis. It’s unfortunate that questions related to religion were only asked in five exit polls (Florida, New York, Texas, Georgia and Arkansas). All states were Clinton won by double digits. In addition, in three of these exit polls (Texas, Georgia and Arkansas,) voters were asked if they attended religious service since not all religious people attend religious service. Nevertheless, the impact of this voting bloc cannot be overlooked.

In Florida where Clinton won by 31 points, exit polls show that religiously unaffiliated Florida voters preferred Sanders to Clinton by a large margin (56 – 43.) The same can be said in New York where they supported Sanders (57 – 43.) Texas results show even a more lopsided support for Bernie Sanders. In spite of Clinton’s landslide win by 32 points, 61 percent of unaffiliated voters chose Sanders over the former Secretary of State. State after state, non-religious Americans support Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, regardless of Clinton’s performance overall.

How Religiously Unaffiliated voted according to Exit Polls

The biggest challenge that faces this voting bloc which leans progressive is “lack of organization.” Religious groups have an advantage as they can easily reach large audiences on Sunday masses. Several non-religious groups, such as “Freedom From Religion Foundation” are attempting to address this challenge. However, their efforts are primarily focused on the separation of Church and State, which even some religious people support, but not so much on advocating progressive values.


1 B. Hankins, American Evangelicals: A Contemporary History of a Mainstream Religious Movement (2008), 1.

Written by Salam Morcos

Salam Morcos is a Managing Editor of Progressive Army and a member of its Editorial Board.

Political activist for democracy, social justice, racial justice, women's right and human rights.


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  1. “The establishment starts to sense the first cracks in its solid structure. But Bernie is only the appropriate tool. It’s the American people who make the difference. No matter who will be elected eventually, the final countdown for the demolition of this brutal system has already started and it’s irreversible. The question now is not if, but when it will collapse, and what this collapse will bring the day after. In any case, if people are truly united, they have nothing to fear.”


  2. I keep hearing how religious folks are better organized, but how can this be when they tend to be less tech savvy and have to go their costly cathedrals to get lock step with their preachers and fellow sheep? Some of the fuel behind the Sanders campaign comes from the superior online organization of nonreligious folks. We don’t need expensive buildings with high upkeep and maintenance costs to get organized. The same reason that secular charities do more than most religious charities is the same reason that nonreligious folks can organize easier and cheaper. We don’t have to advertise/evangelize. We don’t have to send part of our money to a higher power like the Vatican. We can organize by following other nonreligious people on Twitter or Facebook. We can organize by clicking a button to send $10 to a cause we support. While it’s true that religious folks and the religious right in general can take advantage of these same techniques, they won’t be giving up their cathedrals and advertising any time soon and they tend to be so anti-science that they purposefully remain ignorant or are at least suspicious of the technological advances that nonreligious folks are usually the first to embrace. Considering who created Facebook, the Internet, Microsoft, Apple, etc., there is something to be said about the nonreligious folks usually making such advances to begin with too.

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Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at Liberty University

Non-Religious: The Voting Bloc Fueling Sanders Revolution