In the past, the challenges of organizing the religiously unaffiliated have made it easy to understand why Democrats haven’t made a real effort to appeal to them more. As most don’t regularly gather like a church congregation, religiously unaffiliated Americans can be difficult to reach. A lack of institutional leadership also means there aren’t many prominent people or groups showing up to nudge politicians to pay attention to their issues. And despite rising tolerance for atheists and nonreligious people in American culture, overt appeals to the nonreligious still run the risk of turning off the majority of voters who are people of faith.
But there are signs that antipathy toward President Trump has mobilized some religiously unaffiliated voters in unprecedented ways. Although Trump is not an overtly pious figure, he’s embraced a vision of American culture that privileges Christian identity and heritage. That’s a view that most nonreligious Americans reject, which is likely a part of the reason that their support for Biden is so high, despite the campaign’s minimal outreach efforts. In the coming years, though, that calculus might have to change, since the growing size of the country’s nonreligious population could make these voters more difficult for Democrats to ignore.
“I think in future elections we’re going to see more of an effort to reach a secular voting bloc and the reason is simply that they’re continuing to grow,” said David Campbell, a political science professor at the University of Notre Dame who studies religion and politics. “It’s too ripe a target for politicians to ignore.”