In a new Gallup poll, 22 percent of Americans say they would not vote for a “generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be Mormon.”
That’s the same number since Gallup began asking the question back in 1967, when George Romney, father of Mitt, was running for president. However, as Gallup notes, 25 percent of Americans in 1959 said they wouldn’t vote for a Catholic, and one year later John Kennedy was elected president.
A few other tidbits:
– Democrats (27 percent) were more likely than Republicans (18 percent) to reject a Mormon candidate.
– Two-thirds of Americans said they would support a well-qualified presidential candidate who happened to be gay, compared to only 26 percent in 1978.
– Eighty-nine percent said they would support a Jewish candidate. Again, it’s interesting to track that historically. Before World War II and the terrors of the Holocaust (1937), only 46 percent would support a Jew for president. By 1958, it had risen to 62 percent, and by the ’60s it reached 80 percent.
– Fewer than half — 49 percent — would support an otherwise well-qualified candidate who happened to be atheist. But that too has changed. In 1958, the first year it was asked, just 18 percent would have supported an atheist.
– Ninety-four percent say they would back a black candidate. That number didn’t top 50 percent until the mid-Sixties, jumping nine points — 48 percent to 59 percent — between 1963 and 1965, testament to the mind-changing power of the civil rights movement. It jumped another 14 points — 79 percent to 93 percent — between 1987 and 1997. It’s pure speculation, but that’s also the rough time frame in which Bill Cosby dominated the TV ratings as Dr. Cliff Huxtable.
– Today, 93 percent would vote for a woman, but in 1969 only 53 percent of Americans were willing to say that. The crucial jump in support for female candidates occurred as the women’s lib movement took off. By 1971, that number had hit 66 percent, a 13-point increase in just two years.
You hear a lot of people talk about how much America has changed, and they seldom imply it’s for the better. But in many ways the changes of the last 50 years have made this a much better, stronger and united nation.
– Jay Bookman