Polls from by the Gallup Organization are of particular value because they
have asked essentially the same question of American adults for over four
decades. One series of questions is typically worded:
[politigal] party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who
happened to be a 'X' would you vote for that person?"
where "X" is Atheist, Baptist, Black, Catholic, Homosexual, Jewish,
Mormon, Woman, etc. Percentage of unprejudiced adults (those answering
"yes") at approximately 20 year intervals have been:
In the past seven decades, Americans have made impressive gains in overcoming
bigotry on the basis of most religious beliefs, sex, and race. However, they have lots of room
for improvement in reducing bigotry in other areas.
In 1978, the most discriminated-against characteristic was
homosexuality; only about one in four Americans would vote for a
well-qualified homosexual. Gays and lesbians have made impressive gains in
acceptance. Now, about three in four Americans would consider voting for
In 1978, the second most-discriminated against group were Atheists.
Only four Americans in ten would vote for a well-qualified Atheist. In
1999, Atheists had made a slight gain; almost 60% would vote for one.
The data shown for 2007 was collected on three days, starting on February 9. A later
survey, taken in December of the same year showed that the acceptance level for a Mormon
president had risen from 72% to 80%. This increase was probably
due to the presence of Mitt Romney as a Republican candidate for the presidency.
Barna Research 1995 poll on prejudice towards other religions:
Barna Research Ltd. is the most active conservative religious polling
organization in the United States. They conduct telephone polls about a
variety of topics -- mainly involving Fundamentalist and other Evangelical
George Barna, president of Barna Research commented:
many Americans are not practicing Christians, they retain some identity
with the Christian faith and remain protective of it. They are suspicious
of other faith groups because they are unknown but different—and we are
generally uncomfortable with those who are not just like us..."
* These are the responses of those subjects who were familiar with the
religion being considered. Thus, for Christianity, 6% of the subjects were unfamiliar with
the religion and 94% of were familiar. Of the latter, 85% gave a positive
Unfortunately, the Barna news release is missing many pieces of data.
The study apparently classified the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, as a
non-Christian denomination. Conservative Christians frequently define
Mormonism as a non-Christian cult -- perhaps
bordering on Christian Gnosticism -- rather than as a
Christian denomination. Barna Research apparently follows
American adults, whether Christian or non-Christian, apparently regard only Christianity and Judaism as
having a positive influence on society. The remaining five religions are
viewed by the average American as having a negative impact on society. These beliefs do not
bode well for the future of religious tolerance and peace in the U.S. --
particularly in view of the rapid increase in religious diversity in
Barna also compared the beliefs of those who go to church regularly
with the unchurched:
% of churchgoers who
view the impact is
% of unchurched who
view the impact is
Attending church obviously influences people to value Christianity
more, and to hold a lower opinion of other religions.
Surveys consistently show that about 40% of Americans say that they
regularly attend religious
services. But these numbers appear to be inflated. Groups who have
actually gone to church parking lots and counted heads report that 20% is a closer
Prejudice against those of other religions becomes even more serious when
born again Christians are compared to
% of born-again Christians who view the impact as
% of non-Christians who view the impact as negative
We suspect that mainline and liberal Christians have opinions that are
intermediate between the above two groups. The percentage of American
adults who are "born-again" is about 35%. The percentage of
non-Christians is about 15%.
The extremely low regard for Atheists may
well be mainly based on two factors:
Atheism and Communism are often linked in news articles, sermons,
etc. Although the vast majority of American Atheists are not Communists, the two
have been often associated in the
public's mind -- particularly in the past.
The vast majority of American adults believe in the existence of a
personal deity. Atheists, of course, no such belief. Adults might view the Atheists as attacking their God.
"Christianity has a strong positive image despite fewer active
participants," Barna Research, 1996-FEB-5, at: http://www.barna.org/
"Americans today much more accepting of a woman, black, Catholic or
Jew as president; Still reluctant to vote for Atheists or homosexuals,"
The Gallup Organization, 1999-MAR-29, at: http://www.gallup.com/ Also at: http://www.gallup.com/
Frank Newport, "Americans' Views of the Mormon Religion: Most frequent
top-of-mind impression of Mormons is polygamy," The Gallup Poll®,
http://www.galluppoll.com/ This may be a temporary listing.