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September 19, 2011

Voting for gay or atheist for president

Gallup released the results of a poll recently that said that the percentage of people who said that they would vote for a well-qualified homosexual candidate for president is 67% while the number who would vote for a well-qualified atheist was 49%. The number who would not vote for such people was 32% and 49% respectively. These were the two lowest ranked, coming in just behind Mormons, for whom 76% would vote for president and 22% would not vote.

It's always hard to know how to interpret these results because how people respond to such questions can be influenced by what people think is a socially acceptable response. What one can look at are trends. In 2007, the figures for gays were 55% yes and 45% no, while for atheists it was 45% yes and 53% no, so the trends are in the right direction.

Michael Nugent has looked at the trends over the long haul and has a graph that shows that in 1978, gays had only a 25% acceptance, even below that of atheists who hovered around 40%. But around 1990 gays overtook atheists in acceptability. One has to think that popular culture, with its mainstreaming of gay people in the media, has played an important role in the rapid rise. The rise of atheism has been slower.

What is also extraordinary and encouraging in Nugent's graph is the rapid rise in acceptability as president of blacks and females over the same time span.

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