Atheist President, Atheist PM

There’s an interesting post at UK Polling Report about a ComRes Survey intended to mimick an earlier Gallup Poll concerning demographic prejudices in US voting. This poll was done back when it seemed plausible that Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee (thank God that didn’t come to pass!), and the question was how much of a liability his Mormonism would be. Gallup took the opportunity to survey people about a number of candidate descriptions – including age (72 and older – i.e. McCain), sexual orientation, religion (Islam was not included) and … atheism. It turns out that US citizens object to atheists more than anything – with fully 53% saying that they would not vote for an atheist for president, all other things equal. Gays and old guys were next in line – with 43% indicating refusal to vote for a gay, and 42% refusal to vote for someone … erm, John McCain’s age. Unfortunately, there are no data on Muslims, so we don’t know whether that religion is even more objectionable than Atheism, but aside from that possibility, Atheists are THE persona non grata in American politics. OUCH!

The UK Polling Report post points out that Britons are as likely to be racist as Americans – which is to say, barely at all. Equal numbers of Britons and Americans are uncomfortable with a black President/PM, and that number, at 5%, is encouragingly low. (Of course, that with the caveat that it’s right at the boundary of “acceptable,” and if the Bradley Effect is real this number is actually higher than it seems.) Similar numbers of Britons also don’t mind going public with their ageism, with about 43% objecting to the idea of a 70+-year-old PM. Sexism is somewhat lower in the UK – 7% of them objecting to a woman vs. 11% for us. There was a question about divorce on both surveys, but I decline to report on it because there were significant differences in phrasing. Where it gets interesting is with Atheism. While lower than in America, the number is surprisingly high in the UK as well: 20%.

One might not have guessed it, but not believing in God would appear to be almost as much of an electoral handicap for a potential leader in the UK as being Muslim or gay.

But therein lies the difference. We don’t have numbers for Muslims in the US, but the point is that gays are much more acceptable to US voters than Atheists. In fact, the profiles of voters in both nations couldn’t be more different. Minorities and women are – broadly speaking – acceptable in both places, but there similarities end. While a disturbingly large number of Britons object to Muslims and gays, they are still more tolerant of them (well, gays, anyway) than US voters. And while Britons are most concerned that their candidate not be too old – argubly sensible, given the demands of the job, though that of course should be judged on a case-by-case basis – Americans are most concerned that their President believe in some mystical sky bully. While it does matter to some degree which flavor of supersitious nonsense the candidate subscribes to (Catholics are marginally better than Jews; Jews are greatly preferable to Mormons), apparently any flavor is better than none at all.

So I hereby declare myself more discriminated against than any other minority group. That gives me unlimited license to guilt trip the government into buying me a house and a college education and giving me a job I don’t qualify for, AND it allows me to refuse to tip waiters. Ain’t America grand?

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