Strong Percentages of Americans Unlikely to Consider Voting for a Muslim, Transgender, or Agnostic/Atheist Presidential Candidate

    New York , N.Y. – September 16, 2014 – It’s all about the issues, right? Not necessarily, according to a new Harris Poll. When asked to describe their likelihood to consider voting for a presidential candidate fitting a varied series of backgrounds, there are clearly certain characteristics which are deterrents to strong percentages of Americans. Specifically, just over half (52%) say they’d be either not that likely or not at all likely to consider voting for a Muslim candidate (vs. 28% who would be very or somewhat likely to do so); meanwhile, pluralities would be unlikely to consider voting for a transgender man or woman (48%, vs. 34% who would be likely to do so) or an agnostic/atheist candidate (45% vs. 39%).

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,537 adults surveyed online between August 13 and 18, 2014. It should be noted that when evaluating these hypothetical candidates, respondents were asked to assume each was qualified and in alignment with their own political views. It should be noted that while these questions give a good measure of the relative impact of different characteristics and backgrounds, they do not necessarily predict their real impact on voting behavior because such decisions are made based on a more comprehensive set of factors.

    Voting booth biases

    Americans are more split on the idea of a Hindu candidate (39% not likely vs. 37% likely) and a candidate unwilling to discuss his or her religious views (40% and 41%, respectively).

    As for a candidate who won’t discuss their sexuality, 43% would be likely to consider such a candidate while 36% would not. While likely support outpaces opposition in this case, it’s important to note that this still means fewer than half of Americans would support a candidate declining to discuss this matter but who otherwise aligns with their political worldview. Similar results can be seen for Buddhist (43% likely and 36% not) and Mormon (47% and 35%, respectively) candidates, as well as candidates identifying as bisexual (46% and 38%, respectively) and homosexual (49% and 34%, respectively).

    The safe bets? Majorities of Americans would be likely to consider voting for Protestant (72%), Catholic (72%) and Jewish (69%) candidates, candidates without children (72%), and candidates who have never been married (70%).

    Generational disparities

    Matures are more inclined than any other generation to say that they’d be unlikely to consider voting for a Muslim presidential candidate, while opposition is lowest among Millennials (74% Matures vs. 58% of Baby Boomers, 51% of Gen Xers and 39% of Millennials). As a rule, opposition to most of the candidate types evaluated is higher among older generations:

    • Looking at sexuality as a factor, older Americans are more inclined than their younger counterparts to say they’d be unlikely to consider voting for transgender (59% Matures, 55% Baby Boomers, 46% Gen Xers, 37% Millennials), bisexual (52%, 43%, 33% and 30%, respectively), or homosexual (47%, 39%, 30% and 26%, respectively) candidates, along with those unwilling to discuss their sexuality (47%, 40%, 30% and 31%, respectively).
    • Turning to the impact of religious views, older Americans are also more inclined than those in younger generations to say they’d be unlikely to consider voting for Agnostic/Atheist (65% Matures, 50% Baby Boomers, 40% Gen Xers, 34% Millennials), Hindu (50%, 44%, 35% and 32%, respectively), or Buddhist (48%, 43%, 34% and 27%, respectively) candidates, as well as those unwilling to discuss their religious views (52%, 45%, 39% and 30%, respectively).

    Millennials, on the other hand, are more likely than any other generation to display reluctance to vote for a Mormon candidate (42% Millennials vs. 34% Gen Xers, 33% Baby Boomers and 27% Matures).

    Political partialities

    A similar story emerges along political lines, with Republicans more likely than Democrats or Independents to show resistance to many of the candidate types under consideration:

    • Looking at religion as a factor, Republicans are more inclined than Democrats or Independents to say they’d be unlikely to consider voting for Muslim (73% Republican, 39% Democrat and 53% Independent), Agnostic/Atheist (63%, 37% and 40%, respectively), Hindu (55%, 31% and 38%, respectively), or Buddhist (53%, 28% and 35%, respectively) candidates, as well as those unwilling to discuss their religious views (56%, 34% and 34%, respectively).
    • As to the impact of sexuality, Republicans are more inclined than Democrats or Independents to say they’d be unlikely to consider voting for transgender (68% Republican, 34% Democrat, 50% Independent), bisexual (57%, 27% and 34%, respectively), or homosexual (52%, 23% and 31%, respectively) candidates, along with those unwilling to discuss their sexuality (49%, 31% and 31%, respectively).

    Moving in the opposite direction, Democrats are more likely than Independents – who in turn are more likely than Republicans – to indicate reluctance when it comes to voting for a Mormon candidate (45% Democrat, 33% Independent, 25% Republican).

    Independents present an interesting case: on the one hand, they are more likely than Democrats to show reluctance to vote for Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, transgender, bisexual or gay candidates; on the other, their views are more in line with those of Democrats in responding to candidates who choose not to discuss their religious views or sexuality.

     

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    TABLE 1

    LIKELY/NOT LIKELY TO VOTE FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BY CRITERIA

    Summary Grid

    If you thought he or she were otherwise qualified and more in alignment with your political views than their opposition, which of these statements best describes the likelihood of you voting for each of these individuals for President of the United States?

    Base: U.S. Adults

    LIKELY TO CONSIDER (NET)

    I would be very likely to consider voting for this candidate.

    I would be somewhat likely to consider voting for this candidate.

    NOT LIKELY TO CONSIDER (NET)

    I would be not that likely to consider voting for this candidate.

    I would be not at all likely to consider voting for this candidate.

    Not sure

    Protestant

    %

    72

    44

    28

    10

    5

    5

    18

    Catholic

    %

    72

    41

    31

    12

    6

    6

    16

    A candidate without children

    %

    72

    41

    30

    11

    7

    4

    18

    A candidate who has never been married

    %

    70

    39

    32

    12

    7

    5

    17

    Jewish

    %

    69

    37

    32

    13

    6

    7

    18

    Homosexual man or woman

    %

    49

    27

    22

    34

    11

    23

    17

    Mormon

    %

    47

    24

    23

    35

    16

    20

    18

    Bisexual man or woman

    %

    46

    24

    22

    38

    12

    25

    17

    Buddhist

    %

    43

    22

    22

    36

    14

    23

    20

    A candidate who refused to discuss his or her sexuality

    %

    43

    20

    23

    36

    17

    19

    21

    A candidate who refused to discuss his or her religious views

    %

    41

    19

    22

    40

    19

    21

    19

    Agnostic/Atheist

    %

    39

    23

    16

    45

    13

    32

    17

    Hindu

    %

    37

    18

    20

    39

    15

    24

    24

    Transgender man or woman

    %

    34

    18

    16

    48

    14

    33

    18

    Muslim

    %

    28

    13

    15

    52

    15

    37

    19

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2a

    NOT LIKELY TO VOTE FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BY CRITERIA

    Summary of Not At All/Not That Likely to Consider by Generation, Gender & Religiosity

    If you thought he or she were otherwise qualified and more in alignment with your political views than their opposition, which of these statements best describes the likelihood of you voting for each of these individuals for President of the United States?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Religiosity

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Male

    Female

    Very/ Somewhat Religious

    Not Very/ Not at All Religious

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Muslim

    52%

    39%

    51%

    58%

    74%

    54%

    51%

    58%

    44%

    Transgender man or woman

    48%

    37%

    46%

    55%

    59%

    51%

    45%

    57%

    34%

    Agnostic/Atheist

    45%

    34%

    40%

    50%

    65%

    42%

    47%

    62%

    20%

    A candidate who refused to discuss his or her religious views

    40%

    30%

    39%

    45%

    52%

    40%

    40%

    49%

    28%

    Hindu

    39%

    32%

    35%

    44%

    50%

    39%

    39%

    46%

    29%

    Bisexual man or woman

    38%

    30%

    33%

    43%

    52%

    39%

    36%

    47%

    24%

    Buddhist

    36%

    27%

    34%

    43%

    48%

    37%

    35%

    44%

    25%

    A candidate who refused to discuss his or her sexuality

    36%

    31%

    30%

    40%

    47%

    37%

    34%

    43%

    25%

    Mormon

    35%

    42%

    34%

    33%

    27%

    34%

    37%

    32%

    40%

    Homosexual man or woman

    34%

    26%

    30%

    39%

    47%

    36%

    32%

    45%

    18%

    Jewish

    13%

    17%

    12%

    11%

    7%

    14%

    12%

    13%

    13%

    A candidate who has never been married

    12%

    17%

    10%

    10%

    12%

    14%

    11%

    15%

    9%

    Catholic

    12%

    17%

    12%

    9%

    3%

    12%

    11%

    8%

    17%

    A candidate without children

    11%

    16%

    10%

    8%

    6%

    11%

    11%

    12%

    10%

    Protestant

    10%

    16%

    9%

    6%

    2%

    10%

    9%

    8%

    12%


     

    TABLE 2b

    NOT LIKELY TO VOTE FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BY CRITERIA

    Summary of Not At All/Not That Likely to Consider by Political Party & Political Philosophy

    If you thought he or she were otherwise qualified and more in alignment with your political views than their opposition, which of these statements best describes the likelihood of you voting for each of these individuals for President of the United States?

    Base: U.S. Adults

    Total

    Political Party

    Political Philosophy

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Muslim

    52%

    73%

    39%

    53%

    71%

    49%

    34%

    Transgender man or woman

    48%

    68%

    34%

    50%

    70%

    44%

    26%

    Agnostic/Atheist

    45%

    63%

    37%

    40%

    69%

    39%

    26%

    A candidate who refused to discuss his or her religious views

    40%

    56%

    34%

    34%

    56%

    35%

    29%

    Hindu

    39%

    55%

    31%

    38%

    55%

    35%

    25%

    Bisexual man or woman

    38%

    57%

    27%

    34%

    62%

    31%

    18%

    Buddhist

    36%

    53%

    28%

    35%

    54%

    32%

    22%

    A candidate who refused to discuss his or her sexuality

    36%

    49%

    31%

    31%

    50%

    31%

    26%

    Mormon

    35%

    25%

    45%

    33%

    27%

    35%

    48%

    Homosexual man or woman

    34%

    52%

    23%

    31%

    57%

    28%

    15%

    Jewish

    13%

    12%

    13%

    13%

    15%

    12%

    14%

    A candidate who has never been married

    12%

    17%

    9%

    12%

    16%

    13%

    7%

    Catholic

    12%

    6%

    15%

    11%

    7%

    12%

    18%

    A candidate without children

    11%

    12%

    11%

    9%

    14%

    10%

    9%

    Protestant

    10%

    5%

    10%

    10%

    8%

    10%

    12%

     


    TABLE 3a

    LIKELY TO VOTE FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BY CRITERIA

    Summary of Very/Somewhat Likely to Consider by Generation, Gender & Religiosity

    If you thought he or she were otherwise qualified and more in alignment with your political views than their opposition, which of these statements best describes the likelihood of you voting for each of these individuals for President of the United States?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Gender

    Religiosity

    Millennials (18-37)

    Gen Xers (38-49)

    Baby Boomers (50-68)

    Matures (69+)

    Male

    Female

    Very/ Somewhat Religious

    Not Very/ Not at All Religious

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Protestant

    72

    60

    68

    80

    92

    74

    71

    76

    67

    Catholic

    72

    62

    69

    77

    92

    74

    71

    78

    64

    A candidate without children

    72

    62

    70

    77

    85

    73

    70

    71

    72

    A candidate who has never been married

    70

    64

    70

    73

    81

    70

    71

    68

    74

    Jewish

    69

    60

    68

    71

    86

    69

    68

    69

    68

    Homosexual man or woman

    49

    52

    53

    47

    42

    48

    50

    39

    63

    Mormon

    47

    38

    45

    48

    67

    51

    43

    51

    40

    Bisexual man or woman

    46

    51

    48

    42

    37

    46

    45

    37

    57

    Buddhist

    43

    51

    44

    38

    38

    46

    41

    36

    54

    A candidate who refused to discuss his or her sexuality

    43

    44

    49

    39

    38

    43

    43

    36

    52

    A candidate who refused to discuss his or her religious views

    41

    48

    40

    38

    35

    45

    38

    34

    52

    Agnostic/Atheist

    39

    45

    43

    34

    26

    43

    34

    22

    61

    Hindu

    37

    42

    40

    33

    32

    41

    34

    32

    45

    Transgender man or woman

    34

    43

    35

    27

    28

    33

    35

    26

    45

    Muslim

    28

    38

    29

    23

    17

    30

    27

    24

    34


     

    TABLE 3b

    LIKELY TO VOTE FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BY CRITERIA

    Summary of Very/Somewhat Likely to Consider by Political Party & Political Philosophy

    If you thought he or she were otherwise qualified and more in alignment with your political views than their opposition, which of these statements best describes the likelihood of you voting for each of these individuals for President of the United States?

    Base: U.S. Adults

    Total

    Political Party

    Political Philosophy

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Protestant

    72

    84

    72

    71

    77

    71

    70

    Catholic

    72

    84

    70

    71

    78

    70

    68

    A candidate without children

    72

    76

    73

    70

    69

    71

    76

    A candidate who has never been married

    70

    71

    76

    68

    67

    68

    79

    Jewish

    69

    77

    67

    68

    71

    67

    69

    Homosexual man or woman

    49

    36

    61

    51

    28

    52

    73

    Mormon

    47

    62

    37

    50

    57

    45

    36

    Bisexual man or woman

    46

    32

    55

    49

    25

    48

    69

    Buddhist

    43

    33

    51

    45

    30

    43

    63

    A candidate who refused to discuss his or her sexuality

    43

    34

    47

    47

    31

    44

    58

    A candidate who refused to discuss his or her religious views

    41

    31

    49

    46

    28

    44

    54

    Agnostic/Atheist

    39

    25

    47

    42

    20

    40

    61

    Hindu

    37

    28

    46

    38

    26

    36

    56

    Transgender man or woman

    34

    20

    46

    33

    16

    34

    59

    Muslim

    28

    16

    38

    29

    16

    28

    46

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between August 13 and 18, 2014 among 2,537 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll #86, September 16, 2014

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Manager, Harris Poll Content