A study on political leanings conducted by Pew Research offers some curious findings. Released in the 19th of May 2014, the study was aimed at gauging the public pulse on the possible characteristics or “character defects” of candidates in the 2016 Elections. Interestingly, based on the response of those surveyed, being an atheist is a top negative while military service is regarded as the top positive. Also, the respondents, apparently, would prefer someone who smokes pot or someone who has cheated on a spouse instead of voting for someone who is an atheist.
As the Pew Research numbers indicate, around 60% say that it would not matter to them if a candidate was involved in an extramarital affair. Approximately 70%, on the other hand, believe that a history of marijuana use does not matter when choosing a candidate. However, when it comes to faith or religion, the responses are somewhat unexpected. More than half of the respondents or 53% said that the would less likely vote for someone who is an atheist. Only 5% said that they would more likely vote for someone who espouses atheism and 41% said that being an atheist does not matter. Moreover, around 21% said that they will more likely vote for someone who is an Evangelical Christian while 58% said that being an Evangelical Christian does not matter.
For those who might be interested to know if political leaning has any influence on this preference, it would be worth noting that 70% of the Republicans surveyed said that they would less likely support an atheist candidate while only 42% of the Democrat respondents expressed less likelihood in electing an atheist into office. This is rather expected although it does not necessarily mean that Republicans will certainly not field someone who does not totally repudiate atheism.
It is also interesting to find out that atheism, based on the research findings, is being treated as something comparable than the lack of experience in holding public office. Around 52% (against 53% on atheism) of the respondents said that they will less likely vote for someone who does not have public office experience.
Nevertheless, atheists and atheism supporters should not consider these findings despairing. While it is true that many people are still strongly against atheism, the numbers have greatly improved over the years. As pointed out by Cathy Lynn Grossman in her article on Religious News Service, the number of Americans who are against atheism has decreased. Of note, the 52% now used to be 63% in 2007. An 11% decrease is not big but is already a considerable development, especially considering the fact there are more Republican leaders in the United States compared to Democrats.
Still, this does not take away the disappointing number of people who consider someone who had cheated on a spouse or used marijuana as options not as less likely to have compared to an atheist. It’s even more befuddling that 6% of the respondents in the survey would more likely vote for someone who had used marijuana in the past. That’s 1% higher than those who would more likely vote for an atheist.
It certainly is about time for “closeted atheists” to come out in the open to address misinformed or stigma-filled public opinions about atheists and atheism. It would have been understandable if people showed greater tendency to vote based on their religion. What’s very difficult to acknowledge is the apparent preference for vices or extramarital affair to show the rejection of atheism.