The homos vs. the godless

(Only a little bit about language, mostly about social attitudes.)

The “Harper’s Index” in the latest (October 2011) Harper’s, p. 15, reports a startling Gallup poll finding:

Percentage of Americans who say that they would vote for a well-qualified homosexual candidate for president: 67

For a well-qualified atheist: 49

Homos over the godless by a considerable margin! (Bad news for non-believing queers, like me, though.)

The full results:

Ok, there is a linguistic point here. Harper’s reports the queer category as homosexual, but the Gallup chart reports it as gay or lesbian, and that well might make a difference; see Mark Liberman’s Language Log posting of last year (here) on striking differences in responses to poll questions about queers serving in the military (an issue that has now been decided), with much more favorable responses to questions framed with gay men and lesbians than with homosexuals. (There was plenty of speculation about the causes of the effect, but, as Mark pointed out several times, apparently no actual research about these causes.)

So maybe a qualified homosexual candidate wouldn’t have been so favorably viewed.

In any case, the Gallup chart has a big group at the top, with favorable responses declining very gradually from black to Hispanic; then a drop to Mormon (Catholics and Baptists over Mormons by 16 percentage points); a further drop to gay or lesbian; and then an 18-percentage-point plunge to atheist. The lowest of the low.

Even in other universes, as we can see from this Scenes from a Multiverse cartoon:

In his comment on his blog, the cartoonist writes:

If you have any doubt about the punchline in panel six, do a Google search for “most hated group in america”. We’re not popular.

3 Responses to “The homos vs. the godless”

  1. Paul Trembath Says:

    What strikes me is that the survey, or the quoted extract, fails to report on the acceptability of candidates who are white, heterosexual, or Christians of varieties other than those named. At the very least this would put the other numbers in context.

    Also I wonder if the results for “heterosexual” and “straight” would have been different along the lines of “homosexual” vs “gay and lesbian”.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      The categories in these polls are always problematic. To start with, they’re “marked” categories; Lutheran, Methodist, etc. aren’t investigated, nor of course is White. That isn’t unreasonable, because the subjects would find these questions bizarre. (I note, incidentally, that the Gallup people didn’t try Muslim — which surely would have been below Atheist.)

  2. Rick Wojcik Says:

    I think that the proper way to interpret the poll is that being gay raises your chances at being elected to public office. But the key factor is being rich and well-connected. Then all you would need to do is convince the voting public that your opponent was a child molester who dodged the draft and belonged to the Communist Party. It would help if you were also a Republican. Then people would know that you were fiscally responsible and pro-family.

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