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The Year of the Nones

Logo of Atheist Nexus

Logo of Atheist Nexus

Do you want to know who the Nones are supporting for president this year? Thanks to a new national survey from Pew, we can surmise no longer. It's the most None-ish of the candidates in each party: Donald Trump, the not-very-religious Presbyterian, and Bernie Sanders, the secular Jew.

Republican Nones -- or, as Pew prefers to term them, the Unaffiliated -- prefer Trump over his rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich 57 percent to 17 percent and 17 percent. Fortunately for the rivals, Nones are not very plentiful in the GOP, constituting only 13 percent of respondents. Fortunately for Trump, he's also doing well among the other major Republican religious groupings: 38 percent of white evangelicals, 44 percent of white mainline Protestants, and 42 percent of Catholics. Overall, he leads Cruz and Kasich 41-32-20.

It's also telling that half of those Republicans who don't go to church very much (less than weekly) prefer Trump, as opposed to to 23 percent for Cruz and 20 percent for Kasich. With a 44 percent plurality, Cruz is the candidate of those who say they attend services once a week or more. But as strong as religious identification remains within the GOP, its less frequent attenders now outnumber its more frequent 53 percent to 46 percent.

On the Democratic side, Sanders swamps Hillary Clinton among Nones 68 percent to 32 percent -- and 32 percent of Democratic respondents are Nones. What keeps Clinton ahead in the totals (49 percent to 43 percent) is her big majorities among Protestant Democrats (56-35) and Catholics (59-33). Sanders holds a bare lead among the less frequent religious attenders, who constitute fully 68 percent of Democratic respondents, while Clinton is far ahead among the frequent attenders.

The biggest story in American religion over the past decade has been the rise of the Nones, and Pew's new findings suggest that they're still rising, doubling their proportion of Republican voters since the 2012 election and increasing from a quarter to a third their share of the Democrats. It's fair to say that, for the first time in American history, the Nones making their influence felt on the presidential nominating process.

Religious layout of 2012 presidential election.

Religious layout of 2012 presidential election.