Last month, a SurveyMonkey poll of secular voters was released. The poll showed that about 73% of respondents planned to vote for Bernie Sanders, compared to 20% for Hillary Clinton and 1.7% for Donald Trump.
The top three issues secular voters are concerned with are the economy, climate change, and health care in that order.
Should we be surprised that Bernie Sanders is the most preferred candidate by a large margin among secular voters? I don’t think so. After all, Bernie’s answer to whether or not he believes in God raises a few eyebrows if you are religious. Sanders himself has also said that he is “not particularly religious“. However harmless, Sanders also seems to disregard the typical pandering to religious voters by not claiming to “pray” for victims of terror or other crimes.
So, does this make any difference? While secular voters might not make up a huge voting constituency at the moment, they will only become a larger and larger voting block in the future. A recent poll from Pew found that the United States is becoming less religious every year. The amount of Americans who claim to believe in God fell 3% since 2007, from 92% to 89%. The amount of Americans who claim to be religiously affiliated fell 6%, from 83% to 77%. The trend is even more pronounced among Millennials, with only 80% claiming belief in God, and only 38% claiming religion is “very important in their lives”. This could be a small factor in why Millennials overwhelmingly support Senator Sanders for president.
Will politicians ever recognize secular voters as a constituency? Eventually, they might not have a choice. The Internet has been the main driving factor in the rise of secularism, and it’s not going anywhere. Public acceptance towards atheists seems to be growing, 54% of people said they would vote for an atheist in 2012, compared to 58% in 2015.
So, eventually, secular voters should be a powerful voting block. When, however, depends on whether the growth of secularism gets quicker, stays the same, or slows down. The trends look promising, but knowing the American electorate, we will probably have to wait until the older generations die off.