Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Godless Wednesday: Will An Atheist Ever Be Elected President?

Gallup has conducted a poll where it asks the question "If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be ________, would you vote for that person?" In the blank are groups which are generally considered to be (or have been) marginalized in American society: "Black," "A woman," "Catholic," "Hispanic," "Jewish," "Mormon," "Muslim" or "An atheist." (It's sort of curious that Gallup doesn't used adjectives for all the categories; I wonder if there is a bias of saying "female" versus "A woman" or "Atheist" versus "An atheist." At least they didn't say "A homosexual"!) The headline result is that nearly 18% of respondents say they would NOT vote for a Mormon. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is Mormon so this question is no longer just of academic interest. But the result that caught the eye of Hemant Mehta over at  the Friendly Atheist blog was the public's response to a potential Atheist president. A mere 54% of Americans say they would vote for an atheist, while a shocking 43% said they would not. Astonishingly, there is less resistance to a Muslim president (maybe they think we already have one? Just kidding!) at 58% Yes and 40% No and to a gay or lesbian president, at 68% yes and 30% No. It was similarly distressing poll results from the Public Religion Research Institute in November 2011 that made me realize I wanted to devote more of my blogging efforts to promotion godlessness, atheism and agnosticism and led me to begin this weekly series called Godless Wednesday.

Hemant also includes the analysis of howAmericans responses to this question have varied over time (since 1937!):

What's interesting here is that 1) Gallup started asking people about the possibility of a gay/lesbian president way back in 1978 and 2) This is the first poll where a majority of Americans have even said that they would vote for an atheist president, so in that case it can be thought of as progress!

The good news, as Hemant notes, is that if you look at the cross-tabs there are two important results. One is that more Democrats (58%) than Republicans (48%) would vote for an atheist if nominated by their party. The other is that there is a clear correlation of acceptability of an atheist presidential candidate with age, and millennials (who we know are becoming sharply more godless than their older peers) are the most supportive group with 70% of 18-29 year-olds responding they would vote for an atheist presidential nominee, while only 40% of old geezers Americans aged 65 and older saying that they would do so.

Sheeesh, can we just hurry up and get to the America where millennials (and the generation after them) are a majority of the country already? America would have marriage equality and quite possibly an atheist leader.

That's something that Australia is likely to accomplish by the end of 2012. Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard is atheist, and Australia's Parliament is currently considering marriage equality legislation.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

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