A Religious Breakdown of 12 Battleground States

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Arizona

  • Mainliners: 34%
  • Evangelicals: 21%
  • Catholics: 24%
  • Nones: 12%

Colorado

  • Mainliners: 33%
  • Evangelicals: 21%
  • Catholics: 19%
  • Nones: 18%

Florida

  • Mainliners: 28%
  • Evangelicals: 21%
  • Catholics: 28%
  • Nones: 10%

Iowa

  • Mainliners: 28%
  • Evangelicals: 31%
  • Catholics: 26%
  • Nones: 10%

Michigan

  • Mainliners: 27%
  • Evangelicals: 27%
  • Catholics: 26%
  • Nones: 12%

Wisconsin

  • Mainliners: 19%
  • Evangelicals: 26%
  • Catholics: 33%
  • Nones: 15%

Virginia

  • Mainliners: 40%
  • Evangelicals: 28%
  • Catholics: 15%
  • Nones: 8%

Pennsylvania

  • Mainliners: 35%
  • Evangelicals: 13%
  • Catholics: 32%
  • Nones: 11%

Ohio

  • Mainliners: 28%
  • Evangelicals: 30%
  • Catholics: 23%
  • Nones: 12%

North Carolina

  • Mainliners: 32%
  • Evangelicals: 44%
  • Catholics: 9%
  • Nones: 6%

New Hampshire

  • Mainliners: 27%
  • Evangelicals: 10%
  • Catholics: 38%
  • Nones: 16%

Nevada

  • Mainliners: 32%
  • Evangelicals: 16%
  • Catholics: 25%
  • Nones: 17%
  • Mormons: 5%

 

Our resident religion & politics guru Mark Silk assesses the religious layout of 12 battleground states – and explains why religion will matter on Election Day.

Arizona

If Arizona is a battleground state this year, it’s because of the influx of Latinos over the past two decades. This shows up as significant growth in the number of Catholics, who over the past two decades have increased their share of the state population by 20 percent, to nearly one-third of all Arizonans and a quarter of the electorate. Latino Catholics are among the most Democratic religious groupings in the country. Add to them a comparable growth in the proportion of Nones (those who claim no religious identity) and a substantial decline in the number of Protestants, and you can understand why Arizona is no longer as safely in the Republican column as it used to be.

Colorado

The proportion of Christians, both Catholic and otherwise, has shrunk over the past two decades, while the Nones have grown apace. In 2008, this helped Obama handily win a state that had gone Republican in eight of the previous nine presidential elections. If he captures Colorado’s electoral votes again, it will be because, with the Nones and the evangelicals balancing each other out, strong support from the largely Latino Catholic community offset the Romney margin among mainline Protestants.

Florida

Since 1990, Catholics and Nones have gained bigger shares of the electorate of the Sunshine State while the Protestant proportion has dropped. This suggests a trend toward the Democrats, but the large number of Cuban-Americans in the Catholic population makes Latinos less of a Democratic constituency that they are in other states. In a sour economy, Obama will need big numbers from the Nones, the Jews, and the other non-Christians if he is to carry the state for the second time.

Iowa

After voting for Republican presidential candidates through most of its history, Iowa has gone Democratic in five of the six last races. In part this may reflect the sharp drop in the percentage of Protestants in the state—and a comparable rise in the number of Nones and those professing non-Christian faiths. This year, however, Iowa could return to the Republican fold, thanks to intensive anti-Obama advertising by the Romney campaign and its associated Super-PACs. In 2008, nearly one-third of Iowa evangelicals voted for Obama. If that number drops to the evangelical norm of 25 percent for Democratic candidates, it could turn the state red.

Michigan

Michigan has gone Democratic in the last five presidential elections, and no one will be surprised if it does so again. Not only are evangelicals a smaller share of the voting population than in neighboring Ohio, but a greater proportion of them—fully one-third, as opposed to 27 percent—voted for Barack Obama in 2008. To be sure, Mitt Romney is a native son, and son of popular governor. But he opposed the auto bailout that is Obama’s calling card in the Wolverine State.

Nevada

Mormons in eastern Nevada give Mitt Romney a leg up, but they only make up five percent of the Silver State’s population—just one-third the number of evangelicals. For his part, Obama can depend on a larger base of Nones and Latino Catholics. If the president can manage to hold on to enough mainline Protestants he will keep the state in his column.

New Hampshire

The Granite State had been trending Democratic in the 21st century until 2010, when its old-time libertarianism returned in a bluster of Tea Party enthusiasm. No battleground state has fewer evangelicals, but there are enough conservative Catholics to wave the flag of family values. If Obama manages to hang on to the state, it will be because of the Nones, who voted for him by better than three-to-one in 2008, and whose portion of the population has more than tripled over the past two decades.

North Carolina

No battleground state has a higher percentage of evangelical voters than North Carolina. In 2008, they voted John McCain over Barack Obama by a 74-25 margin, but polling in early October showed them favoring Mitt Romney over Obama by just 68-29. Add to that the possibility that some Tarheel evangelicals will decline to vote for either Obama or the Mormon candidate, and it could be Wednesday morning before we know how the state voted.

Ohio

In 2004, when George Bush carried the Buckeye State by two points, evangelicals voted for him by a margin of 76-24. Constituting 25 percent of the electorate, they provided him with a 13-point cushion. In 2008, evangelicals were up to 30 percent of Ohio voters, but they went for John McCain by only 71-27, costing him half the 52-47 margin by which he lost to Barack Obama. This year, surveys show Mitt Romney leading Obama among evangelicals by as little as 20 points. If Romney carries Ohio, it will be because evangelical activists like Ralph Reed manage to return their people to at least McCain levels of support.

Pennsylvania

In 2008, Obama did well with Protestants, not so well with Catholics in the Keystone State, but this year, the Catholics are a lot more enthusiastic about him than the Protestants are. The explanation? Catholics have come to see Obama as a traditional Democrat, and a significant number of Protestant Obama supporters have started identifying themselves as “None.” So long as Catholics don’t embrace their church’s call to see the Administration as hostile to their religion, Obama seems safe.

Virginia

Thanks to huge growth in the Washington suburbs, Virginia has a smaller proportion of evangelical voters than North Carolina, and larger proportions of mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Nones. That makes the Commonwealth more likely than the Tarheel State to end up voting for Obama.

Wisconsin

Four years ago, Barack Obama carried Catholics while losing Protestants in the Badger State. But the Catholic population of Wisconsin has been falling while the Protestant population has become more evangelical. Although Wisconsin has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in each of the last six elections, it’s a close call in 2012, and this helps explain why.

EXPLANATION OF DATA: Most of the data in this chart were obtained from the state-by-state exit polls taken in 2008. In all but three cases (Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia), voters were asked to provide their religious identity as Protestant, Catholic, Other, No Religion, and occasionally Jewish. In all but two cases (New Hampshire and Pennsylvania), voters were asked whether they were born-again or evangelical.

To obtain the portion of mainline Protestants, we have simply subtracted the percentage of evangelicals from the percentage of Protestants. For the three states where religious identity was not asked for, we used the percentages provided in the 2004 exit polls, which did ask.

For the distribution of evangelicals and mainliners in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, we used the proportions provided in the North American Religion Atlas (http://www.religionatlas.org/). The LDS Church supplied the number of Mormons in Nevada, where they constitute a significant fraction of the population but a fraction that the Nevada exit poll did not register separately.

  • DangerousTalk

    Both political parties better tone down the “God Talk” because the “nones” are becoming a voting bloc. Atheism is on the rise and don’t appreciate being ignored.

  • jim

    The ATHEISTS deserve to be IGNORED, along with the Socialists and Communists!! What a DESPICABLE ilk!!

  • Janette Jakobs

    Just use any search engine with “Mormon” and “baptize the dead”. The results of the search show a complete disregard of people deep held beliefs and a antitheses of religious freedom. You can have whichever religion you want, but only they are right and will baptize you to their true faith after you can’t stop them. Once again, Mitt’s real beliefs on any subject are hidden in his Etch a Sketch.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    While you credited Mormons as constituting about 5% of the Nevada population (my calculation shows just over 6.3%) the Arizona population includes about 5.7% Mormons, which you do not mention. That is about 374,000 people, perhaps 300,000 of voting age. Colorado has slightly higher than the national average, with 2.6% Mormons in its population, or about 137,000 people.

    The key question is whether Romney will pull in Democrats and Independents of any religion beyond the people who would vote for ANY Republican candidate. When margins are close, though, Romney’s religious affinity with Mormons who are Democrats or Independents could swing as many as ten thousand votes in Colorado or Nevada, and several times that in Arizona, and make a difference in the outcome. So we await what actually happens.

    On the comopletely unrelated topic of Mormons performing vicarious baptisms on behalf of their dead ancestors, the standard Christian theological position is that people who did not become Christians before death are in hell and will be there for eternity, no matter how exemplary their lives. The failure of Christians to evangelize most Chinese, Polynesians, and Muslims condemns them all to hell for the “sin” of not hearing a Christian missionary. Which attitude seems more congenial to you?

  • Augusta

    One aspect regarding North Carolina that wasn’t mentioned is the large growth of the Catholic Church in the state; due to not only the large Latino population and the in-migration of people from the northeast, but to converts from other denominations. The number has doubled in the past decade.

  • Ithamar

    A person’s religious base will determine his actions. Religious and civil liberty is the product of the Christian Protestant Reformation. It has never been established in any other culture. Islam, Popery, atheism, etc. are all incompatible with the religious and civil liberties of the West in general and the US in particular. The more non-Protestant Christian religion flourished, the greater loss of liberty and its blessings of prosperity. This study seems to bear testimony to this truth.

  • Daniel Burke

    Good point on Arizona Mormons, Raymond. Thanks for mentioning that. Generally, we only included the top four religious groups (in terms of percentage of voting pop.) . We included Mormons in Nevada because they are expected to be a small but important factor. We’ll take a look at Arizona, and may tweak our map accordingly. As always, thanks for reading.

  • FooFooFaka

    Remember DangerousTalk, “none” doesn’t mean atheist. You forgot the agnostics, seculars, and detached believers. When you do the math 19.6% ( round to 20%) of the nation is “none”, but only 5% is atheist according to recent surveys.

  • Mrs. J.C.

    My husband and I both voted early, and it would be interesting to see the ‘early’ vote count down and the balance of who is left to vote i.e. today having the vote to be done. We have moved in the last three years to a different location and have noticed at least in the neighborhoods where we are a great mix of people and their nationality origins. So it would be hard to pinpoint I think at least generally speaking the breakdown of those who are actually willing to vote for one who is morman, verses what the pres. considers himself to be, but in reality appears to be very much of the ‘musilm’ influences in behavior and in values. A very disturbing status to say the least. My view of this whole subject matter is the Evangelicals really have no good choice to make, it’s either the ‘morman who wants to be considered as Christian and all who are real Christians know that isn’t true. Or to vote for one who who wants to be considered ‘christian’ but in reality is more ‘muslim’ and that again is not a good choice to make. So it’s two wolves dressed in Sheeps clothing and one is hiding it a lot better than the other. I am not happy with the choices available, but went and voted early, and am still getting calls to go vote ! The opinion polls haven’t stopped either, and it would be nice of course if you could actually get a live voice to give the real opinion of the selections available. But everyone or should I say 99% of all the opinion polls are pre-recorded, which makes me think they don’t want to hear the real opinion of the ones to be voted for in office. Sad but true. I have prayed yes, and want the best for our country but realize that this year as it seems more so with each election is giving many of us the feeling or sense that the Lord is giving us limited time available to be here on the earth, and that we really who are HIS, should be out sharing the Word much more so than we have been doing. For the window of Evangelism is getting shorter with each year passing and the ‘underground’ church is becoming more and more of a reality in a country where Faith use to be free in expression and acceptance and now it’s being muzzled by those who use to let you speak freely ! This is AMERICA, land of the FREE !!! What happened ? We have unwittingly allowed those who saw this freedom as opportunity to overule the Christian and Judeo faith, to be overrun by those who do not believe as we do and this is the price we are paying for it. What happened to FREEDOM ? for the CHRISTIAN ? for the Jew ? Pray for your neighbors, and be a real neighbor to them. I know I need to do this too!

  • Mark Silk

    So if I might ask, Mrs. J.C., whom did you and your husband vote for?