October 3, 2006

"Do you think Americans are ready to elect a [BLANK] as president, or not?"

Before you click here and see the poll numbers -- if you haven't seen them already -- look at the words for filling in that blank -- presented alphabetically -- and guess which order people think Americans are "ready": African American, Asian, atheist, gay or lesbian, Jew, Hispanic, Mormon, woman.


bearing said...

I got the order right, except that I reversed "woman" and "African American," and "Jew" and "Hispanic."

I was surprised that the largest vote of confidence anyone got was 61 percent.

Do you suppose people are thinking of anyone specific when they answer? Maybe "woman" really means "Hillary" or "Condi." It would have been interesting to see, also, the numbers regarding the question "Are YOU, sir or madam, ready to vote for a BLANK."

Joseph Hovsep said...

Not much hope for gay atheists.

David said...

It appears the answers were topical based on Condi, Hillary, Colin Powell, Lieberman, etc.

A veritable "Melting Pot" of people in the U.S.

Sorry, I forgot the "Melting Pot" theory isn't Politically Correct!?

Ann Althouse said...

Bearing: I'm sure the percent would be much higher if the question was are you ready. This is a survey of about how people think of the prejudice of other people.

I note "Muslim" wasn't even on the list.

Freeman Hunt said...

I see a DTL rage coming on the horizon.

The two that threw me were Jew and Asian. I didn't know that anyone, with the exception of Peggy Fox, cared about whether or not a candidate was Jewish. And Asian? I didn't even know that there was a (perceived?) bias against Asians out there.

Either people are silly or people think that other people are silly.

mikeyes said...

Some would say that it is a little too late to be concerned about either the athiest or the gay category.

As for the Jewish category, when Goldwater was running one wag commented: "We wait for all this time for a Jewish president and he turns out to be an Episcopalian." (In the HBO Goldwater special the story went that Goldwater was turned away from an exclusive golf club by being told that "we don't let your kind in here." Goldwater replied by saying, "I'm only half Jewish, can I play nine holes?"

MadisonMan said...

Do Americans vote for labels, or do they vote for the person? I think hypothetical questions like this are pretty useless. But it makes a good blog topic.

Doug said...

The low ranking of Asians surprised me, hasn't Peru elected a man of Japanese heritage?

I have read stories that state there is a huge portion of the electorate who will not vote for an atheist, so I think that low ranking would hold up in applying it to voter preferences.

Internet Ronin said...

Looks like bad news for Mitt Romney. I'm surprised that the number who aren't ready for a Jewish President is so high, considering that 50% voted for Joe Lieberman for Vice President and his religion was rarely mentioned (except by Lieberman himself).

Joseph Hovsep said...

Freeman, I see lots of bias against Asians outside of the stereotypical fields in which they are 'expected' to excel like engineering, medicine or classical music performance. Asian-Americans are not well represented in politics or TV/film, which probably makes it harder for people to imagine an Asian-American as President. Asian-Americans may also be perceived (rightly or wrongly) as less likely to be Christian, which seems to be a priority for a lot of people.

Margaret Cho talks a lot about her experience with racism in her comedy and she has made a point of posting racist hate mail she receives on her website with identifying information about the people who sent the mail.

Goesh said...

I seem to recall reading somewhere recently that half of eligible voters are registered and only half of that number actually votes. With a rough 25% participation rate, more Black, gay, atheist females are needed on the ticket(s).

Christy said...

On the other hand, asking about how others would vote gives cover for individual prejudices. Don't I remember correctly that for a while polls consistently overrated the vote for black candidates because the polled didn't want the pollsters to think they were racist?

I, too, was surprised by the low ranking of Asians. Yul, on Survivor, is my new TV boyfried. I want him for president.

Dave said...

I'll vote for anyone on the list as long as they appeal to me.

Of course, it could be argued that I wouldn't vote for a Mormon because of their tendency toward social conservatism. But if a socially liberal Mormon were to be nominated, I don't see that I would have a problem. Unless he was a socialist.

The candidate's beliefs are more important to me than the group to which he belongs. However, since some groups are fairly or unfairly associated with certain beliefs, I may think twice about voting for a member of such a group.

Freeman Hunt said...

Asian-Americans are not well represented in politics or TV/film

We own somewhere around 400-500 DVDs from Hong Kong, Korea, China, Japan, and Thailand, so I guess I forget that I don't see Asians very often in American films. Weird. Why not? What's the deal?

Incidentally I don't know why more films from Asia aren't released over here. At least the number seems to be increasing.

dklittl said...

I'm really surprised that the number on African-Americans was as high as it was. But I think you do have to credit Collin Powell and maybe slightly Condi for probably making the idea more palatable to the American people, although the latest news about Condi won't help.

What is sad, is that the atheist rate is so low. I'm can't say that I'm necessarily surprised, but the religious hurdle looks to get larger and larger for candidates. And that means more and more pandering.

Jeremy said...

Agree with joseph. I'm not particularly surprised by the low ranking of Asians. How many Asians do you see in high politics? i.e., Senators, governors, non-trivial cabinet positions, military leadership. The numbers just aren't there. Plus, I think that, at least compared to African Americans, people perceive them as less American.

Elizabeth said...

I didn't know that anyone, with the exception of Peggy Fox, cared about whether or not a candidate was Jewish.

Freeman, I'm guessing you don't live in the South. It's not necessarily the case in the more progressive cities, like Houston, but there's still a lot of anti-Jewish bigotry in general, and especially among the old-line, monied, white social and business classes. There are country clubs and private organizations (Mardi Gras krewes, dinner clubs) that won't admit Jews in New Orleans. And we wonder why large corporations keep leaving town. We've had one Jewish candidate for mayor and he got no support from that group.

Dave said...

Large companies leave New Orleans because it has a population of ill-educated vagrants. Its antipathy toward Jews would be, I imagine, companies' last concern.

Freeman Hunt said...

Freeman, I'm guessing you don't live in the South.

I live in Arkansas. Maybe things are different in the deep South.

Paul Zrimsek said...

When and if Americans are ready to elect a BLANK, John Kerry is ready to report for duty!

reader_iam said...

Caveat: I don't share or in anyway endorse the attitude I'm going to address here.

The Asian statistic doesn't surprise me at all; if anything, it strikes me as perhaps a bit high.

I think that, as far as president goes, there is a significant portion of people (whether consciously or not) who, due to the symbolic aspect of the office of POTUS, want to that president to "look" like what a generic American is supposed to "look" like. Again, this could be unconcious or unconscious.

We've made some progress on the African-American front, in this context, though not enough. But with regard to Asians, I think not so much. I wonder if people would have difficulty looking at an Asian-American president and having his or her features "fit" into the imprinted (so far) picture of what that president should "look like" in terms of "looking" "American."

I'm not putting this all that well. But it's a strong hunch, nonetheless.

Again, not an attitude I share or endorse... .

Revenant said...

Freeman, I'm guessing you don't live in the South.

Actually, according to the Anti-Defamation League, the most anti-semitic people in the country are blacks and Hispanics -- both groups are nearly three times as likely as whites to be strongly anti-semitic (12% vs 35% and 35%).

Which is why people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson still have careers after all the anti-Jewish crap they've pulled.

Anyway, I suspect "Hispanic" got a low score because people were lumping foreign-born Hispanics into that category. I seriously doubt they were thinking about, say, Martin Sheen. :)

LoafingOaf said...

If a strong candidate were running in each of those categories, I believe the only categories that Americans would not be ready to elect are atheists and homosexuals, two groups against whom there's still an awful lot of hostility in America.

I'm an atheist and I remember when Senator Byrd ranted about how if atheists don't like the Pledge of Alliegiance with "under God" they should get out of America. It caused no scandal for a senator to tell atheists to leave the country; the only reason I knew he said that was because I happened to watch C-Span one day. The KKK may not be socially acceptable for Byrd anymore, but hating atheists is, so he's sticking with it.

I also percieve President Bush as somewhat prejudiced against atheists and views believers in God/Allah as more likely to be moral people. Which is pretty laughable given all the evil going on in the world in the name of religions.

As for homosexual presidential candidates, there's a lot more people will have to be ready for than just being okay with a gay person leading them, unoike when a homosexual is in the House or Senate. For example, would the First Lady duties be filled by a First Life Partner, or would the president have to be celibate and single to be accepted?

For the other categories, I actually think most Americans wish they could demonstrate how little they mind females and racial minorities in the White House but the field of candidates always denies them the opportunity. Obviously Al Sharpton or Alan Keyes are not gonna get many votes because their views aren't mainstream.

But I sense that, for example, lots of Republicans would absolutely love their party to have the first, say, black female president. Isn't that part of why so many were hoping Condi Rice might run?

Freeman Hunt: Incidentally I don't know why more films from Asia aren't released over here.

Good question. Asian DVDs sell like hotcakes amongst younger Americans. But I guess Hollywood would rather just copy them in remakes...like Scorsese's new movie, and like they've been doing with a lot of the Asian horror movies.

jinnmabe said...

I guess people are taking for granted that we haven't already elected an atheist as President. Maybe the question implies a person vocal and unabashed about his/her atheism.

Also, did they also ask the people polled how many of them thought Mormons had horns? Cause that might influence my vote for President. You know, if the candidate had horns.

Freeman Hunt said...

But I guess Hollywood would rather just copy them in remakes...like Scorsese's new movie, and like they've been doing with a lot of the Asian horror movies.

I hate that. Infernal Affairs, the movie Scorsese remade, is one of my favorite movies. Why remake a classic when you haven't even shown the classic in the first place? Most of the Asian horror movie remakes, like most remakes in general, have paled in comparison to the originals.

The Drill SGT said...

As was already mentioned, you are going to get a different answer from a question that asks an individual about "their willingness to vote for a BLANK" than you do if you ask about their opinion about whether others wil vote for BLANK.

My suspicion is that the person will have a lower number for others than that same person would for themselves.

On the other hand, it has been observed that public polls tend to demonstrate the voters favor a minority higher in pre-ballot polling than in the actual election returns. By that I mean, let's say 60% of likely ovtes say they will vote for Doug Wilder for Gov of VA for example, Doug gets 51% in the ballotting, yet the exit polls say that 60% voted for him. Lots of folks won't be anti-PC in public, yet will vote their biases in the booth.

Revenant said...

I also percieve President Bush as somewhat prejudiced against atheists and views believers in God/Allah as more likely to be moral people

That's true of all devout Christians. But Bush has earned points with me for repeatedly mentioning "good people of no [religious] faith" along with Jews, Christians, et al, when speaking of people who love freedom, peace, America, etc.

I don't recall previous Presidents doing that. Certainly his father never would have.

Cedarford said...

I think the whole Is America Ready for _________?? is tainted by identity politics, where rejection of one is seen by purveyors of identity politics as rejectors of the group in toto.

Hence, America is not "ready" for a Greek-American because Dukakis and Spiro Agnew (eventually) were rejected.

The lame Presidential bids of Pat Shroeder and Elizabeth Dole prove America was "not ready" for a woman - or was it they were not ready for a ditzy liberal dingbat or a nepotic pre-Hillary type?

And rejection of largely unqualified, extremist candidates who played to specific "identity" groups -like Jesse Jackson, Pat Robertson a sign that they were rejected? Or just unqualified and unappealing to the majority of voters?

If there is "truth" in the poll it perhaps shows how publically accepting voters are of some PC - it is unacceptable to discriminate against women, blacks, Jews - but still rejecting - even backlashing against -other PC trying to impose itself - Accept the whole gay agenda the Left is trying to shove down America's throat or you're a homophobic bigot...

I would predict that if a Jew ran and showed even slight hints of dual loyalties to Israel or was so legalistic-Jewish Talmudic that he said the Congress and the President were inferiors the activist ACLU-driven Judiciary and merely existed to carry out the courts wishes - he or she would be resoundingly rejected.

It's unlikely a black can ever be elected if they run on a "we blacks need" liberal platform. Or a woman that wishes to make America "more nurturing female" and less "testosteronally hostile" to "valid 3rd world and Euro" feelings.

If the poll does go to identity, it does show the public does display uncertainty about people from groups they don't know much about. Would an Asian be inscrutable and barbecue dogs at the White House? Would a Mormon President have one or several 1st Ladies? And practice bizarre rituals wearing funny underwear?

I believe the negatives on Mormons or Asians just reflect lack of knowledge. Where either runs, and is a good candidate, it doesn't seem to matter, those negatives disappear. Mitt Romney and Sessui Hayakawa are good examples.

And I predict groups that try for identity politics affirmative action BINGO will be very disappointed:

"Shes black, with white, Asian, Hispanic and NA ancestry! And she's smart, she has a handicap, has a Jewish grandfather, was born evangelical, converted to Mormon but is now atheist gay....and, errrr...has never run for elective office before her Presidential bid, not even grade school."

Nice thing about President is we can look at the individual, not the group. And see if a candidate can represent MOST of us well.

Bruce Hayden said...

I was disappointed in the Mormon vote - like a lot of others, I would suspect that it is out of lack familiarity with them.

I really do think that Mitt Romney is one of the strongest, if not strongest, Republican candidates out there. He has a policy wonk side like Clinton, but is a decisive manager, like Bush. And he has comparable credentials to both, an Ivy League J.D., and a Harvard M.B.A. He is also very articulate, telegenic, and has good geographic appeal (Mich., Utah, and Mass. roots).

But he is Mormon, and that is probably the thing that is going to kill his candidacy. My guess is that almost all of those saying they wouldn't vote for a Mormon don't know very many, if any, of them.

And that is probably the problem with Asians too - we just haven't seen very many at all at the national level, and the few we have seen have not been very strong. But I think that you used to be able to say that about African-Americans. If all they had to judge on were Marion Barry and Al Sharpton, the vote would have been quite a bit lower. But Colin Powell and Condi Rice have shown that African-Americans can serve at the highest levels of government effectively and with integrity.

The Hispanics are lagging here, but are coming up strong, which is why I think their percentages were as high as they were. My money is still on another George Bush though as the first Hispanic president.

I do think that it was Joe Lieberman who got the Jewish vote as high as it is. At least to me, of the four losing Democrats in the last two presidential elections, the one who has the most integrity left is Lieberman. And because of him, I, think that a lot of the stereotypes have been shattered. He mostly does do what he says he will, and is a lot more consistent in his views and actions than many others in the Senate. And those are qualities that are needed in the White House.

Let me note that this isn't a dig at the other Jews in Congress (except, maybe, Shumer), but rather, that we have had a chance to look at him a lot more closely.

Finally to homosexuals. I would vote for the right one (and I think most here would too), but I suspect that their low ranking here is based on a general negative view of them by the American public, and in particular, their life style choices, and, possibly, by the push for gay marriage through the courts, knowing that it will fail in even the most liberal states at the ballot box.

Oh, and I forgot women. Too emotional and out of control. Obviously, unsuited for the presidency, except for Condi Rice, of course.

Ok, let me be a bit more honest: I would consider many women, just not Hillary Clinton, though I would trust her with national defense before I would trust John Kerry.

Bruce Hayden said...


In answer to your question, Mormons would have one wife. The difference between Mormons (defined as being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Later Day Saints, and not one of its offshoots) is that this is a question of church legitimacy.

Starting in the 1840s, the Mormons tried to get statehood, and failed for fifty years or so, based to a great extent on their polygamy. Then, their prophet had a revelation that it was no longer acceptable, they bribed some eastern papers with advertising, and promised the Republicans eight Senate seats (they had been Democrats up until then - but the Democrats of the time weren't helping). And with that, they got statehood.

But not all of them were happy with this, and other "prophets" had contrary revelations, and left to set up their own churches. What has to be remembered is that part of the legitimacy of the Mormon church is through their prophets, and these offshoots attack the legitimacy of the Mormon prophets, and, thus, the legitimacy of the church itself. In short, they are apostates, and that is far worse than being unbelievers.

The result, at least in my experience, is that Mormons are more strongly opposed these days to polygamy than anyone else I know - despite often having polygamists in their family trees.

downtownlad said...

I see a DTL rage coming on the horizon.

Rage? I think not. This only proves my point that the vast majority of this country are anti-gay bigots. Are we supposed to be surprised by this?

Cedarford said...

Bruce Hayden - Bruce, I know about LDS. My brother in law is one. The line about 1 or several 1st ladies was a joke. As was the one about an Asian President barbecuing a dog at the White House.

The point was that people with a lack of knowledge about groups either have funny ideas about them or fall into the multiculti trap of saying "no differences whatsoever - good or bad - exist between any groups in America."

They do.

But at least with major Presidential candidates we get to see them as individuals and we all know that variations within a group are enormous. So "group" is not that important on that level.

The difficulty is when someone who came to power personifying or pretending to speak for a specific group then runs for power and has to suddenly say they will represent ALL the people. That is a much tougher sell.

Johnny Nucleo said...

What about African-Africans? What about South-Pacific Islanders? What about the hardy people of the Steppe? (I don't know what they are called.) What about Germans?

Anonymous said...

OK, am I the only person who thought the question was so vague (perhaps deliberately so) that it was worthless as soon as asked?

Byron York nailed it in the linked post: The answers may involve people describing their own prejudices, prejudices they ascribe to others, or something else.

I think it would be more insightful to ask a question along these lines: "Would YOU be more or less likely to vote for a {BLANK} as President?

Joseph Hovsep said...

I agree with Craig... the question is frustratingly vague. If I were asked if America is "ready" for a gay or atheist president, I'd probably roughly interpret it as "Do you think a gay or atheist could be elected president today?" and I'd probably say no, despite my fond feelings for gays and atheists.