Black President More Likely than Mormon or Atheist

A recent Gallup poll reveals that Americans are much more likely to elect a black man or a woman president than a Mormon or an old man. More interestingly, they’d rather be governed by a homosexual than an atheist:

Gallup Poll Diversity

Now, these numbers are prospective. People know, for example, that John McCain is an old man and that Rudy Giuliani is divorced and yet they’re doing well in the polls. Still, the ranking of these prospective attributes is interesting.

With all the talk about Romney’s Mormon Problem–with some sizable percentage of Americans thinking the religion he belongs to is a cult–this survey would seem to indicate that it’s less of a problem than being twice-divorced. That’s rather interesting given that there seems to be no real stigma to divorce and re-marriage in the society at large. Further, being 72 years old is massively more problematic, at least theoretically.

I’ve long known that an acknowledged atheist could never win the presidency. But who would have guessed that atheists would poll behind homosexuals? Wonder what Andrew Sullivan would make of that?

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Gender Issues, Public Opinion Polls, Race and Politics, Religion, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. @ariherzog The country isn’t ready for an atheist president. Gallup did this poll last year: http://tinyurl.com/7ndcju




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  2. Well, a homosexual could be ANY of the people on the list.




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  3. James Joyner says:

    Sure. And a 72-year-old thrice-married Hispanic Mormon woman might run, too. The poll is trying to isolate single variables.




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  4. Mark says:

    So what does this say for the chances of people voting for a 72-year old black lesbian who is an atheist and going on her third civil union?




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  5. LaurenceB says:

    If I had been asked, I would have indicated that none of the characteristics listed would lead me to automatically disqualify the candidate. I assume there are many Americans (perhaps most?) who would respond as I would.

    I wonder how the results would be effected if those who responded like me were removed from the data? Just wondering out loud.




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  6. ken says:

    With nine marriages between the top three republican candidates exactly how is a Mormon so objectionably different?




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  7. James Joyner says:

    LaurenceB: You’d have been listed as a Yes for each of the questions.

    ken: I’m not arguing that it’s objectionable just that there has been a lot more discussion about Mormonism than age or divorce in the media.




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  8. LaurenceB says:

    James,
    I don’t think I was clear. Of course you are right that I would answer Yes to every category. But I would like to know how many “Yes-men” there are. I can’t know that from the stats presented.

    It is interesting to me because (for example) if 45% of the respondents are Yes-men, than that means that virtual everyone who chose to disqualify a candidate chose to disqualify atheists. Which would be revealing. Whereas if only (5%) of the respondents were Yes-men, that in and of itself, would be telling, wouldn’t it?




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  9. “If I had been asked, I would have indicated that none of the characteristics listed would lead me to automatically disqualify the candidate.”

    Laurence makes a valid point and demonstrates the inherent weaknesses of most polls.




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  10. A second thought on my previous post – what would a poll like this one have told us prior to Romney’s election in Masscahusetts? Not many Mormons there. Not many Republicans, either.




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  11. Farnie says:

    Wonder why you didn’t include a Muslim in that mix.




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  12. mcg says:

    You’re asking the wrong person, Farnie! James didn’t do the poll, Gallup did. But it is a good question!




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  13. LaurenceB says:

    I’m guessing Muslim might beat out Atheist for last place. Just a guess.

    I would still vote Yes for a Muslim, by the way. (Not that I think anyone really cares.)




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  14. Michael says:

    Ive long known that an acknowledged atheist could never win the presidency. But who would have guessed that atheists would poll behind homosexuals? Wonder what Andrew Sullivan would make of that?

    I wonder what Thomas Jefferson would make of that…




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  15. LaurenceB says:

    Just to show I’m not completely tolerant:

    I heard this guy named Tony Alamo on the radio the other day. A complete wacko preacher. Wacko. Did I mention he was a wacko?

    If someone was a follower of Tony Alamo that would disqualify them in my book.




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  16. Brian says:

    Interesting results. I’d like to see them coupled to candidate preference, though. Certainly some nontrivial fraction of the sample is up on current politics. This likely introduces a bias. For instance: when the poll taker asks “would you vote for a woman?”, some people will on some level hear “would you vote for Hillary Clinton?” Similarly, many people may tune their answers to the “thrice married” question to line up with their opinions of Rudy Giuliani. It would be interesting to see these effects accounted for in some way.




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  17. MikeT says:

    These categories cannot really be compared with one another. Being black is a racial issue, being homosexual is a sexual orientation and atheism can apply to everyone in the group. It’s like saying that Americans are more likely to want a president who likes dogs than a president who enjoys watching soccer. How do you compare such differences? You can’t.




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  18. yo says:

    You could swap out the question “Who would you vote for” with “List these items in descending order of what you find socially acceptable” and you’d probably get the same results.

    Then again, I find polls silly.




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  19. James Joyner says:

    Whereas if only (5%) of the respondents were Yes-men, that in and of itself, would be telling, wouldn’t it?

    Ah. What you’re looking for is the crosstabs. I’m sure Gallup has those but those are typically available only on a fee basis, with only the aggregate data in these public releases.

    Wonder why [Gallup] didn’t include a Muslim in that mix.

    I’d saying because there wasn’t one running but, so far as I know, no homosexuals are atheists are among the serious candidates, either. (And I include the likes of Dennis Kucinich among the ranks of the “serious.”)

    How do you compare such differences? You can’t.

    Sure you can. Either they’re factors for which you’d exclude someone for consideration for the presidency or they’re not. You could add “under 5 foot 7 inches” and “mostly bald” to the list, too.




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  20. jaymaster says:

    Many folks think Americans have already elected a homosexual President:

    James Buchanan




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  21. It saddens me to the core that over half of Americans won’t vote for someone just because they don’t believe in an imaginary creature.




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  22. Michael says:

    You could swap out the question Who would you vote for with List these items in descending order of what you find socially acceptable and youd probably get the same results.

    Yo is right on this, it’s more a poll of possible points of contention for a candidate, that preference. The more of these items you have, the less likely a random American is to vote for you, by the percentage listed. A white homosexual atheist has only about 25% acceptance while a black heterosexual atheist has about a 42% acceptance rate, and a “72-year-old thrice-married Hispanic Mormon woman” only has 21% acceptance.

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics.




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  23. Michael says:

    Many folks think Americans have already elected a homosexual President:

    And an atheist: Thomas Jefferson




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  24. LaurenceB says:

    Many people, of course, are “apatheists”(c).

    I generally fall into that category, and I’m sure a healthy percentage of Presidents do also. Although politicians need to express religiosity for public consumption, whereas I don’t.

    Just how much of a Quaker was Nixon really? 😉




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  25. AllenW says:

    People may be thinking that if someone is religious she has some sort of moral compass and we won’t need to watch them every minute of the day.




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  26. jaymaster says:

    WRT Buchanan and Jefferson, might America actually be devolving as an open society?




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  27. James Joyner says:

    WRT Buchanan and Jefferson, might America actually be devolving as an open society?

    Jefferson wasn’t elected in the modern sense; he was chosen by state legislators. Even so, he carefully couched his theism in Judeo-Christian rhetoric.

    Whether Buchanan was a homosexual, I haven’t much information or interest. Certainly, though, it wasn’t publicly acknowledged that he was one at the time of his campaign.




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  28. jaymaster says:

    James,

    Very good points.

    My main interest with Buchanan, BTW, is that he was born and raised within a few miles of several of my ancestral families. My family has been researching the genealogy for years, trying to determine if we have a genetic link with Buchanan’s family. Mostly just out of curiosity, and for the coolness factor (assuming being related to one of the worst Presidents of all time would be considered cool…). So I know an awful lot about him.




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  29. Fatmouse says:

    It saddens me to the core that over half of Americans won’t vote for someone just because they don’t believe in an imaginary creature.

    Well, frank, you just explained yourself right there. Imagine the question:

    “Would you vote for someone who considered you a drooling idiot and held you in contempt?”

    And that’s why no athiest will be elected.




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  30. carpeicthus says:

    I’ll wager you 10:1 atheists poll behind Muslims, for the reason that Fatmouse gives. Not that most atheists are actually like that, but that’s the public perception of them. I’d love to have religious faith; it’s a great feeling — I just don’t, and Pascal’s wager isn’t enough for me. I can’t hold it against people who do have faith, but being America’s most hated minority does make people a bit snippy.




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  31. denise says:

    You could swap out the question “Who would you vote for” with “List these items in descending order of what you find socially acceptable” and you’d probably get the same results.

    That can’t be entirely true. It would be more than surprising to learn that 12% of Americans find women socially unacceptable, or that Catholics are considered more socially acceptable than women.

    As for the divorce question, I’d be curious to see the results for “married twice.” I’m guessing the numbers would be more favorable. I agree that there is very little stigma attached to having a (as in one) divorce anymore, but you probably lose a few people with the second divorce. There are all kinds of reasons why a person might get divorced once which may or may not reflect on the person. But a second one might start to raise suspicions that at least part of the cause is some character flaw.




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  32. Chris Brown says:

    Yeah, and people never lie to pollsters.




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  33. Nicholas says:

    Fatmouse, there is the problem, you assume athiests think religious people are “drooling idiots” and hold them in contempt. Why are you assuming that? I’m an athiest and I don’t consider religious people idiots or hold them in contempt. I don’t mind what people believe as long as they have a “live and let live” policy. Your comments are, I feel, much more insulting to an athiest like myself (because of the assumption that you make about my character, and you don’t even know me) than any comments I would direct to a religious person, especially one I didn’t know. Why is that?




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  34. Mike G says:

    “Many folks think Americans have already elected a homosexual President: James Buchanan And an atheist: Thomas Jefferson”

    And there are those who claim Buchanan was succeeded by someone who was both.




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  35. Christopher says:

    LOL! I love liberals like ken who keep talking about republicans that have ben married over and over. BFD! Funny how you won’t talk about the great economy or why the D’s won’t stop the war because they are too big of cowards.

    Anyway, the poll should have asked about Muslims and/or candidates with Muslim names that pretend NOT to be Muslim. I would NEVER vote for. EVER and I think most Americans agree with me.




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  36. Jonathan says:

    Anyway, the poll should have asked about Muslims and/or candidates with Muslim names that pretend NOT to be Muslim. I would NEVER vote for. EVER and I think most Americans agree with me

    No, many Americans would NOT agree with you because many Americans are sensible, open minded, and rational people; unlike yourself.

    If you’re referencing Barack Obama, he is NOT Muslim and because his last name rhymes with one of a terrorists’ doesn’t make him Muslim or a terrorist either. Glad to see you’re upholding the ignorant and close minded ideology spoon fed to you by the propaganda spewing media.

    Get a vasectomy, we don’t need idiots like you procreating and raising children.




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  37. Katie says:

    Wasn’t JFK a Catholic? That would make that particular group more palatable to the masses. It’s sad that there are people out there who can out and out say they wouldn’t vote for someone based on one facet of who they are, be that their faith, race, gender or sexuality without even kowing what said person were to stand for. Very very sad.




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  38. Mac says:

    Polls are meaningless and normally consist of about a thousand respondents. That’s about 1 person for every 300,000 in the country. People lie, politicians lie, and polls are little more than a meaningless media tactic.

    They poll 1,024 people and report that the nation is in favor of this, or not in favor of that. Over 95% would vote for this type and less than 5% would vote for that type.

    With the internet, we have the potential to poll tens of millions. Yet the media relies on less than a couple thousand people to decide for everyone else.

    Bottom line….it’s a load of bull stool.




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  39. Fafnir says:

    To everyone talking about social acceptability: that’s not the only factor. I’m not ageist, but I would be cautious about voting in a 72 year old man, simply because the job is highly stressful and there is a relatively high probability that he will die before the end of his term, handing over to the vice president. I wouldn’t disqualify him on the basis of his age, but I would certainly consider the likely vice president.

    In case anyone cares: I would vote for anyone else listed above based on policies and voting history alone.

    Oh yeah, and to the guy who said that atheists think theists are drooling idiots: yeah. And you’re idiots for not understanding Lagrange’s theorem and n-dimensional vector spaces as well. Get real. I wouldn’t doubt the intelligence of someone who’d never heard of Lagrange’s theorem, only his mathematical knowledge. Likewise, I don’t doubt the intelligence of someone who believes in God, only his philosophical knowledge. Put it like this: do *you* consider everyone who disagrees with you an idiot? No? Nor do we.

    We do tend to react badly to the sort of discrimination showcased in these poll results, though. Oh, and Fred Phelps and others of his ilk? THEY are drooling idiots.




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  40. Mike says:

    @fatmouse: Odd you should make that point because I’ve met quite a few religious people who seem to hold me (an atheist) in the same regard.

    Sure there are atheists who think like that about religious people too but then you get bigoted pricks in almost every walk of life, god or no god.




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  41. Ronald says:

    Homosexuals, athiests, warmonger, religious fanatics, corrupter, whatever, as characters of individuality there will always be indifferences and abuse from politicians of higher power anyways, which is why God never intented man to create governments in the first place.
    “It does not belong to man even to direct his own step!”
    Until all mankind learns and accepts this, peace will never prevail on this planet under his hand.




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  42. Andrew says:

    I am sorry, I found this quite funny.

    Posted by Jonathan
    “No, many Americans would NOT agree with you because many Americans are sensible, open minded, and rational people; unlike yourself.”

    I love the things that are used to describe Americans, and I would have to disagree with all of them. Americans as a collective and not any of those things. For example, you can even look at just this thread of comments. As you can see, atheists are popping out directing pointed comments at the one person who offended them.

    The only comment I found thoughtful and useful was the one made by Carpeicthus. His comment is completely correct, the public perception of atheists is exactly what Fatmouse said.

    I happen to fall into the Mormon minority so I know exactly what it feels like to have a false perception thrown against you. You learn to live with it, or you live bitter. Don’t take the second road.




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  43. Andrew says:

    By the way, sorry for getting off track, I am really tired and I have to go to class, so no time for editing.




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  44. big says:

    Where are the muslims?




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  45. Kent G. Budge says:

    Andrew,

    I would be careful about drawing sweeping conclusions from small or unrepresentative data sets. The folks posting here are unrepresentative of the American public. In fact, folks posting anywhere are unrepresentative of the American public. Most people have the good sense not to immerse themselves in politics (I wish I was one of them) and don’t give a rat’s rear about the blogosphere.

    I’m not saying the blogosphere is useless or should be shut down, but it should also not be taken too seriously. Like badly-designed polls of small sample populations.

    I’m also a Mormon and have occasionally had the kinds of bad experiences you hint at. I don’t think they’re representative. Most folks, while not sharing my beliefs, are respectful of them. This includes a number of agnostics and even a few atheists of my acquaintance.

    You are right, though, that one should learn to live with the bad apples and not become embittered. Good advice for anyone.




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  46. Aaron says:

    @Mac

    Do you realize that 1000 is about the critical mass that will get you around +/- 3 or 4% margin of error? Read up a little bit on polls, obviously you don’t know anything about how they’re done and why they are accurate. Gallup knows what they’re doing.

    Now if we did what you suggested, all we’d be getting is responses from visitors of a particular site — not at all a random sampling of the American population.




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  47. Aaron says:

    @ Jonathan about Christopher

    Word.




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  48. ch. says:

    what the results really say is that people were more ashamed of admitting that they wouldnt vote for a homosexual than an atheist




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  49. Hapasc says:

    where are the asians?




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  50. jake says:

    If I could, I would only vote for atheists. Consider if Bush relied on lack of evidence instead of faith when he said Iraq had WMD’s.

    When Fatmouse said that atheists consider theists to be drooling idiots, that is flat out wrong. It is the theist method of belief that is idiotic. The process not the people.

    If somebody ran that happened to be religious, that’s fine, it’s their life. But if somebody ran saying that they pray to god and that god gives them all these things and such that is where the problem is. God does nothing, don’t argue existence, and relying on it is stupid; faith doesn’t make it true, but skepticism (read: science, atheism, etc) sure is going to lead to better intelligence (in the CIA sense).




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  51. Ian Monroe says:

    The important thing to remember about Mormons is that they are usually Republicans. I would be tempted to say no, but really only because I’ve never seen a (national) Mormon politican who I agreed with. To me this question is basically asking “would you vote for Orin Hatch?”

    Similarly if you saw “women” or “black” you increasingly are actually asking the question “Clinton” or “Obama” respectively.




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  52. B'Kay says:

    If this is true, than it’s sad.
    All the answers should be 100% yes.
    I guess that America isn’t so free or open-minded as it presents itself.
    You can’t tell how good person is based on his color or religion.

    What exactly is difference between white protestant president and white atheist president?
    Or black?
    I can’t tell the difference.




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  53. Demosophist says:

    I tend to think that this hierarchy is an accurate reflection of the way people prioritize their voting preferences in the absence of other information. The problem is that there’s a universe of “other information” that might significantly impact this priority. Moreover, it’s probably not additive. If someone is a member of one non-preferred category being a member of two or more wouldn’t significantly impact the likelihood of voting for them. In fact there might even be a perverse tendancy to prefer people with multiple “bad marks” to people with only one, simply because their faults are more tangible, and therefore easier to “forgive”.

    Well, I guess what I’m saying is that if there were a vote today the fellow with two divorces would win hands down, even though he’s also pro-choice, anti-gun, and samesex-marriage-tolerant. Voter preferences aren’t linear… and as Duncan Black once argued, people may even have more than one “top choice”.




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  54. Anthony says:

    Americans should not consider Mitt Romney for President precisely because he is a Mormon. Mr. Romney is entitled to his beliefs, but Americans are entitled to judge how stupid the man is to believe in the Book of Mormon, which “forms the doctrinal foundation of the Church” and “speaks the word of God to all the world.”. ( Encyclopedia of Mormonism). The founder of this “religion”, Joseph Smith, claimed that in 1823 an angel named Moroni appeared to him and revealed gold plates written in “reformed Egyptian letters” buried in a hill near his Palmyra, New York home, plates which contained “the fullness of the everlasting Gospel.” After digging up this book, which Smith claimed no one else could look upon or risk instant death, Smith began “translating” the text “by the power of God.”, using the technique of burying his face in his hat in order to shut out all light and allow him to look into mystical “seeing stones”, the identical technique used for treasure hunts had culminated in Smith’s criminal conviction for fraud upon an elderly man who financed one treasure hunt expedition. This book was a cunning, wicked fraud calculated by Smith to deceive thousands. Romney’s professed belief in this ridiculous work of fiction, which forms the foundation and basis for such wild and preposterous beliefs that dead Mormon believers will become worshipped demi-gods on alien planets after death, demonstrates Romney cannot be trusted to review and critique thousands of non-fiction documents President reads from trained analysts at the CIA, FBI, and other national security agencies about actions of terrorists and nations in the world that seek to do us harm. Mr. Romney’s belief in this fabricated book, and his statements regarding his perceptions of morality obviously based thereon, demonstrates that for his entire lifetime he has made personal and policy decisions upon “failed unintelligence”, as influenced and guided by John Smith’s fictional work called the Book of Mormon. Though he has the constitutional right to stupidly believe what he wants to as to religion, we have the right to judge his intellect for such beliefs. We cannot risk Mitt Romney’s inability to separate fact from fiction as a national leader, and thereby his proven lack of intellectual acuity.. Anyone dumb enough to vote for Mitt Romney is sufficiently ignorant to believe in the Book of Mormon, and probably should become a Mormon too, but please, stay out of national politics. Anthony Pennington




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