Mark Silk assesses the religious layout of 12 battleground states – and explains why religion will matter on Election Day.
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.
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.
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.
Read on at Religion News Service.