It’s an interesting question with no good answer because Pew classes together everyone from atheists to unaffiliated in a single category.
In Virginia, Obama lost Protestants by 9 points and Catholics by 10 points, but won 76 percent of the “nones,” who were 10 percent of the electorate.
In Florida, Obama lost Protestants by 16 points and Catholics by 5 points, but captured 72 percent of the “nones.” They were 15 percent of the electorate.
Similar results were seen in states including Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
Selzer tells us that in her last Iowa poll before Election Day, data she had compiled for the Des Moines Register showed that Obama was losing to GOP nominee Mitt Romney among both Protestant and Catholic voters.
Those voters make up 88 percent of the state’s electorate, yet her final numbers still had Obama leading Romney by 5 percentage points.
“I see this in the data, and give a shout out to Michelle,” Selzer says, referring to her research assistant, Michelle Yeoman.
“How is this possible?” Selzer recalls saying. “I was pretty much awestruck.”
What Selzer found was that though her polling showed Romney leading among Catholics by 14 points and among Protestants by 6 points, Obama was winning the “nones” by a 52-point margin.
Obama did lose religious voters in swing states, but not by a large enough margin. Irreligious voters are less of a group and more of a symptom. But they are also a reminder that this is not an economic debate, but a culture war, and that the social issues cannot be detached from the political issues.