Thursday, May 24, 2007

The numbers game

This is certainly old by blogging standards but I just came across it yesterday and I thought it was worth mentioning.

Back in the first part of February, USA Today/Gallup did a poll about American attitudes towards certain groups of people as possible presidents. The question was "If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be [fill in the blank], would you vote for that person?" (Scroll down at the link to find complete results.)

Now, the question is asking people to confess to some sort of bias, so it's safe to say that the "no" answers were lower in the poll than they would be in reality. Still, for every group listed, there were some who said they would refuse to vote for someone for that reason. Those percentages ranged from 4% of those polled for a Catholic candidate to 43% for a homosexual one, passing through (in increasing percentage of "no") black, Jewish, female, Hispanic, Mormon, married for the third time, and seventy-two years old along the way.

There was, however, one additional category, one case in which a majority of Americans were willing to say they would refuse to vote for a candidate based solely on that one characteristic: if he or she was an atheist.

There may be a constitutional separation of church and state, but the idea that there is a practical separation between being churched and state is a fantasy.

Footnote: With the exception of Hispanic, thrice-married, and being 72, the same basic question has been asked about these groups before, in three cases as far back as 1937. In every case but one, the percentage saying "no, I would not vote for such a person" has dropped dramatically since the question was first asked.

What was the one exception, in which the "no"s have gone up, in fact soared from 17% to 24%? Mormon. I wonder if it's because the possibility didn't really occur to people before this year.

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