Most negative presidential trait, according to the public: Atheism, of course

Not the most negative conceivable trait, of course, just the most negative trait that a major candidate might plausibly have. Obviously, being an axe-murderer would hurt your chances at the White House more than atheism would. I think?

Atheism’s been at the bottom of the barrel of these polls for years now. I just like blogging them because I like to grumble, especially when “The Walking Dead” is on hiatus and I’m deprived of my natural outlet.


Tough stuff — although, while it might not look it, atheism is less of a liability than it used to be. Gallup ran its own poll on presidential traits two years ago and found an interesting trend towards acceptance of the godless. People won’t vote for an atheist happily, but increasingly, they will vote for one:


I took that as a hopeful sign when I blogged it at the time, but now that I look again, yeesh. A mere 14-point increase over 34 years? No wonder Obama hasn’t come clean yet.

But never mind all that. The Pew poll responsible for today’s atheism tidbit covers a lot of ground and has some verrrry interesting data bearing on 2016. Look again at the first table above and compare the number who say being a governor is a positive trait to the number who say Washington experience is. See now why Bush, Christie, and Walker are all thinking so intently about getting in? Another figure from the same poll is even more striking. In 1987, when people were asked whether being a member of Congress or being a governor was better preparation for the presidency, 66 percent said the former versus just 22 percent who said the latter. That gap’s been narrowing ever since, to the point where the two are now treated by equal numbers as the better qualification — 44 percent apiece in today’s poll.

The identity-politics nuances are interesting too. Thirty-five percent of Latinos say they’d be more willing to support a Latino candidate, which helps explain why Julian Castro is suddenly in line for a cabinet position. And note this one:


You already knew that lefties are in “it’s time” mode when it comes to electing the first woman president, but this shows the magnitude of Hillary’s pioneer appeal. See now why economic populism isn’t going to make Jim Webb viable in a Democratic primary against her? She couldn’t checkmate Obama with her break-the-glass-ceiling message in 2008 because the novelty of his candidacy was even more profound than hers. In 2016, though, unless another woman challenges her, the First Woman President brand is going to be all the lefty cred she realistically needs to keep liberals off her back in a primary and at the polls in the general.

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