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Study: Obama Captures Non-Religious Vote

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Obama lost some of the Christian and Protestant vote from 2008, but made major gains with non-religious and Jewish voters. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Obama lost some of the Christian and Protestant vote from 2008, but made major gains with non-religious and Jewish voters. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – President Obama lost ground among white evangelical Protestants and white Catholics in this year’s election, but religiously unaffiliated voters and Jewish voters came out in big numbers for the Democratic incumbent.

Traditionally Republican groups such as white evangelicals and weekly churchgoers strongly backed Romney, according to Pew Research Center data. But traditionally Democratic groups such as black Protestants, Hispanic Catholics, Jews and the religiously unaffiliated backed Obama by massive margins in the 2012 election.

As a whole, Obama’s 2012 margin of victory was much smaller than in 2008 when he defeated John McCain by a 53 percent to 46 percent margin.

On the Republican side of the political spectrum, nearly eight-in-ten white evangelical Protestants voted for Romney (79 percent), compared with 20 percent who backed Obama. Romney received as much support from evangelical voters as George W. Bush did in 2004 (79 percent) and more support from evangelicals than McCain did in 2008 (73 percent). Throughout the report, “Protestant” refers to people who described themselves as “Protestant, Mormon or other Christian.”

Mormon voters were also firmly in Romney’s corner; nearly eight-in-ten Mormons (78 percent) voted for Romney, while 21 percent voted for Obama. Romney received about the same amount of support from Mormons that Bush received in 2004.

Compared with religiously unaffiliated and Jewish voters on the left and white evangelicals and Mormons on the right, Catholics and white mainline Protestants were more evenly divided.

Among white mainline Protestants in the exit poll, 54 percent voted for Romney, while 44 percent supported Obama. This is virtually identical to the 2008 election, when 55 percent of white mainline Protestants voted for McCain and 44 percent backed Obama.

Romney received as much support from weekly churchgoers as other Republican candidates have in recent elections.

Nearly six-in-ten voters who say they attend religious services at least once a week voted for Romney (59 percent), while 39 percent backed Obama. Those who say they never attend religious services were again among the strongest Democratic supporters in the presidential election. More than six-in-ten voters who say they never attend religious services voted for Obama (62 percent). Voters who say they attend religious services a few times a month or a few times a year also supported Obama over Romney by a 55 percent to 43 percent margin.

Slightly more than half of 2012 voters describe themselves as Protestants (53 percent), compared with 54 percent in each of the three previous elections.

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