More than Blacks, Jews or Gays, Atheists are Rejected by Americans in Presidential Politics
Earlier this week, Rowan created a visualization of Pew Research polling data regarding the rejection of atheists as marriage partners in the United States. The lesson was pretty clear: if you’re an atheist in the United States and you want to be accepted by your in-law’s family, you’re either going to need to be lucky, choosy or secretive. Members of the American Christian majority tend to express unhappiness at the prospect of an atheist marrying their son or daughter.
Even though Pew Research has a solid reputation as a social survey organization, one survey alone could be anomalous. Is prejudice against atheists found in other surveys of the American public?
To be blunt, yes. Over a number of decades, the Gallup polling organization has asked the following question a number of times in nationally-representative surveys:
“If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be _________, would you vote for that person?”
The blank is filled with a variety of social categories. Over the years, what percentage of respondents have answered “No?” I’ve gathered polling results from this Gallup question from 1958 to 2012, the last year in which Gallup asked the question (source | source | source | source). Not every category was included in questioning every year, but despite gaps over time three trends are evident, as you can see for yourself:
Trend 1. Categorical prejudice regarding presidential choice has declined over time for multiple social categories.
Trend 2. Across the 1958 to 2012 period, only four social categories of qualified presidential candidates have ever been rejected by more than 40% of American respondents to the poll: women, blacks, homosexuals and atheists.
Trend 3. In the 21st century, prejudice against qualified atheist presidential candidates has consistently been the most strongly embraced by Gallup respondents, by a significant margin. Without regard to qualification, Americans reject atheists more often than blacks, gays and lesbians, women, Catholics, Mormons, Baptists, Jews and Hispanics in Presidential politics.
If you’re wondering why some atheists seem so gosh-darned touchy, I hope this information helps provide some context: while Americans have come to reject most other prejudices by overwhelming margins, the blanket rejection of atheists from political life remains broadly acceptable.