The Newsweek article was interesting. The premise is that the white evangelicals Protestants are losing the younger generation of voters, the millennials. In fact, there has been a religious downward trend of evangelical whites for some time.
Missouri, the middle of Middle-America, is a bell weather state when it comes to national averages in terms of religious affiliation versus political bent. With three of the five major cities (St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia) firmly in the hands of liberal thought, in a sea of conservative rural voters, we can see what is happening nationwide.
According to a Pew Research study, Missouri’s religious affiliation has moved away from the white evangelical Protestants and more toward the unaffiliated movement. In 2003, the split was a strong 27- to 20-percent evangelical versus unaffiliated. In 2017, the most recent information available, that split is almost even at 23 versus 22. According to the Newsweek article, many millennials are upset with the social conservative issues of LGBTQ rights, gay marriage, healthcare and the treatment of immigrants. They are also upset with President Trump’s attitude towards women and telling the truth.
This does not mean that the number of agnostics and atheists registered voters has increased over the years. The problem with determining the actual number, estimated at about 6 percent of the general population, is that most studies completed by Pew and others lump the nonbelievers in with those who are believers but no longer affiliated with a particular church, the “nones.”
“[A]n umbrella category composed of U.S. adults who identify, religiously, as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” All of the ‘nones’ among the Diversely Devout, however, are people who describe their current religion as “nothing in particular.”
In a Newsday opinion column, Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, hypothesized that the “Nones” would be the determining factor in the 2018 mid-term elections. She wrote that “nones” “have increased by 19 million since Barack Obama was first elected president, making them the fastest-growing group by religious identification in America.”
However, the “nones” did not come out in 2018 to vote in droves as did the white evangelical Protestants. Though the numbers are close to equal in the 2018 mid-terms, evangelicals represented 26-percent of the vote, where the unaffiliated was at 17-percent. That nine-point gap is substantial.
These results mean two things must happen to increase the number of unaffiliated or “nones” at the polls in 2020. First, the “nones” need to organize and developed strong super PACs, independent and unaffiliated political action committees that work without coordination with a candidate or political party. In 2016, Super PACs spent about $60 million in political ads, most from conservative groups.
Second, there needs to be a more concerted effort to get out the vote (GOTV). With numbers close to identical, we should see a surge of voters of “nones” in 2020. This will be most important if Trump is to run for re-election (for which I have no doubt).
As more and more millennials see behind the curtain of their religious affiliation, they will also see through the wall that the white evangelical churches have supported the president in his actions. We need these men and women at the polls if we are to defeat Trump and his move closer to an American theocracy.
There is no reason why the “nones” cannot affect the outcome of the 2020 election. Again, according to Pew Research, “nones” are more likely to lean towards the Democratic Party than the GOP. This also holds true for independents. And that gap has been widening since the 1994 election cycle with a 22-percent of “nones” leaning GOP versus 68-percent leaning toward the Dems.
The 2020 election cycle has started with over two-dozen potential candidates on the Democratic side alone and at least 10 Republicans who will seek to unseat Trump. As part of the growing community of “nones,” we must keep the prize, the presidency and winning the Senate and House, as a priority in our political lives. We must move the U.S. government back toward the secular stance it has maintained for almost 230 years.