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No Religious Tests Allowed, but Religion Influences US Voters

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A candidate’s religion remains a significant factor in U.S. voting patterns, a Gallup report published Feb. 11 revealed.

While Article VI of the U.S. Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office, voters continue to be influenced by the religious tradition of particular candidates.

Gallup asked U.S. adults to respond to the following question, “If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be (blank), would you vote for that person?”

The blank was filled with different characteristics that included race, gender, sexual orientation, age and religious affiliation.

Significant differences emerged in voter responses on a number of items, including a candidate’s religion.

Overall, U.S. adults were most likely to say they would vote for a well-qualified Catholic candidate (95% yes; 4% no), Jewish candidate (93% yes; 6% no) or evangelical Christian candidate (80% yes, 18% no).

By comparison, only 66% said they would vote for a well-qualified Muslim candidate (32% would not) and 60% would vote for an atheist (38% would not).

Voters willing to support a candidate who is Jewish have more than doubled since 1937, when only 46% said they would do so, while those willing to support a candidate who is an atheist have more than tripled from the 18% who said they would do so in 1958.

Differences in voting patterns based on respondents’ age, gender, race and political affiliation were minimal for Jewish and Catholic candidates, but notable distinctions emerged when respondents were asked about candidates from other religious affiliations.

Democrats (69%) and independents (68%) were more likely than Republicans (41%) to vote for an atheist, while voters aged 18-34 (77%) were more likely than those aged 35-54 (55%) and 55-plus (51%) to do so.

Similar patterns were seen when polling about a Muslim candidate, with Democrats (88%) significantly more likely to support a Muslim candidate than independents (71%) or Republicans (42%).

Voters aged 18-34 (85% would) were significantly more likely than those aged 35-54 (63%) and 55-plus (57%) to do so.

When it comes to voting for an evangelical Christian candidate, Republicans were most likely to say they would do so (88%), compared to Democrats and independents (77% would for both groups).

There was little difference between age groups: 18-34 (79% would), 35-54 (81%) and 55-plus (80%).

The margin of error for the survey was plus-or-minus 4%.

The full report is available here. The topline results are available here.