A very interesting voter analysis has been done by Mark Gray of CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) at Georgetown University. Here are excerpts from the study.
“Surprisingly, just looking at the polling data and the electoral math, President Obama doesn’t need to win the Catholic vote or the Protestant vote for that matter! How could this be? Quietly, another solid Democratic Party voting block [the None/Other vote] has grown in size and importance in recent years that has a similar electoral effect to the Catholic-JFK vote. So much so that President Obama could lose both the Catholic and Protestant vote to the Republican nominee—even lose badly—and still win re-election.”
“’Nones’ are people without a religious affiliation (this does not mean they are all atheists or agnostics... they may even consider themselves to be religious or spiritual in some way—just not connected to any religious group). “Others” are a survey research catch-all category of people who have non-Christian religious affiliations. Twenty years ago the combined None/Other vote amounted to less than 10 percent of the population and the voting electorate. Today, the None/Other population percentage has risen to 22 percent (… and is expected to continue to grow in the future). This makes it nearly equivalent in size to the U.S. Catholic population percentage.”
The None/Other block is more positive on abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research than Catholics or Protestants and has voted overwhelmingly Democratic in in recent elections.
Mark concludes: “In 2012, if Democratic “safe” states remain as such and President Obama is able to attract only 44% of the Protestant vote and 44% of the Catholic vote in each battleground state, he would likely narrowly lose Ohio and Iowa but still narrowly win majorities in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nevada, and New Hampshire (in the latter two states one in four or more voters are expected to be None/Others). This would result in 291 Electoral College votes—a healthy surplus above the 270 needed to win re-election.
“In other words, perhaps we should not be so surprised to see President Obama take some of the positions he has in direct opposition to Catholic leaders. He may be risking majorities of the Catholic vote yet simultaneously he is also building more strength among None/Other voters. His campaign relies heavily on polling and research and I am sure they fully understand the implications of religious affiliation and vote preferences in the electorate. What seemed so irrational to some weeks ago is beginning to look to me like a campaign strategy. Don’t get me wrong, he cannot run the risk of seriously alienating Catholic or Protestant voters. He just has some room to maneuver given his likely strength among the None/Others. I don't think his campaign is really worried about “winning” the Catholic vote. In the 2012 political climate, getting just 44% would likely be a win."
For the complete analysis, see: