2011 American Values Survey: America Still Not Cool With Atheists

The Public Religion Research Institute has just released their 2011 American Values Survey.

While there are a lot of interesting findings, the most interesting are the findings related to voters' attitudes about the religious affiliation of potential presidential candidates.

Among the findings:

America digs a religious president
Two-thirds of voters say that it is very important (39%) or somewhat important (28%) for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs. However, nearly 1-in-5 (19%) say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who had strong religious beliefs if those beliefs were very different from their own.

Suck it, atheists!
Once again, an atheist president seems to be the most universally reviled, with 67% of all voters saying they would be somewhat to very uncomfortable with an atheist in the White House. Unsurprisingly, Republicans were the most uncomfortable (80%), with 70% of Democrats and 56% of Indpendents also feeling uncomfortable with an atheist president. Americans seem to be more threatened by no religion than by religious views that lead some people to fly planes into buildings.

Not crazy about Muslims (but then again, they're no atheists)
America is slightly more comfortable with a Muslim president than they are with an atheist president, with 64% of all voters feeling uncomfortable with the idea. Republicans are the anomaly here, however, as they feel slightly more uncomfortable (81%) with the idea of a Muslim president, than they do with an atheist president (80%). The majority of Democrats and Independents are uncomfortable with a Muslim president (56% and 58%, respectively). These numbers would likely be higher if most people weren't somewhat used to Obama by now.

In Evangelicals We Trust
In contrast, an Evangelical president is much less threatening, with only 28% of all voters feeling uncomfortable (18% of Republicans, 32% of Democrats, and 31% of Independents). Americans tend to be fearful of the unknown. And while George W. Bush made many uncomfortable, it is a discomfort we are quite familiar with.

The kids are alright?
One trend that is not surprising is that millennials (18-29) seem to be much less bothered by the religious affiliations (or lack of affiliations) that bother older voters...well, except for Mormons.

A little over half (54%) of millennial voters say they would be uncomfortable with a Mormon president, compared to 39% of senior voters (65 and older).  It is unclear if millennials are simply more likely to have seen South Park, or if they are just creeped out by Glenn Beck. I mean, they are weird, right?

56% of millennials say they would feel somewhat uncomfortable with an atheist president (41% would actually feel somewhat comfortable), compared to 77% of senior voters who would feel at least somewhat uncomfortable with an atheist president (this includes the 60% who would feel VERY uncomfortable with an atheist president).

Half of millennials say they would feel at least somewhat uncomfortable with a Muslim president, with nearly as many (47%) saying they would feel somewhat comfortable. Compare that to seniors, of whom 74% would be at least somewhat uncomfortable with a Muslim president.


There's much more to dig into, including attitudes on income equality, Obama's performance, and the current GOP candidates-in-running. View the report here (pdf).

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