New Survey Says Being an Atheist is the Most Negative Trait for a Presidential Candidate

For decades now, Gallup has been asking voters about their dealbreakers when it comes to electing a President:

If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be ________, would you vote for that person?

And every time, “atheist” has been at the bottom of the list. In 2012, there was cause for celebration simply because more than half of those surveyed said they wouldn’t hold atheism against a politician.



Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released the results of their own version of this question. They wanted to know which qualities would help and hurt potential 2016 presidential candidates.

They asked voters whether certain characteristics would make it more or less likely that a politician would get their votes. For example, if the candidate were a woman, 19% of those surveyed said they would be more inclined to vote for her while 9% said less, for a net positive of 10%.

So Pew ranked the characteristics from highest net positive traits (served in the military, was/is a governor) to the highest net negative (take a guess):


There we are, way at the bottom. 48% of voters, on the whole, say they would be less likely to vote for someone who was an atheist. Having an affair would hurt you lessthan admitting there’s no evidence for the existence of God. Someone who’s never held elected office would be at an advantage over someone who didn’t believe in fairy tales.

(Hello, European readers. Please stop laughing at us.)

The one upside to that is that atheism was a more harmful trait seven years ago (63% of voters said in 2007 that they would be less likely to vote for an atheist, compared to 53% now), so the percentages are at least heading in the right direction, albeit very slowly…

But that’s not even the craziest result. It’s disappointing, for sure, but it’s not unexpected.