Election 2020

'Socialist and 'Atheist' Still Poison in American Politics—Unless You're a Democrat

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks during a rally in Evansville, Ind., on May 2, 2016. (Denny Simmons/Evansville Courier & Press via AP)

A Gallup poll out today shows that a majority of Americans wouldn’t vote for a socialist for president and only 60 percent would vote for an atheist.

This is in line with other polls that have shown a bare majority rejecting socialism.

But this poll shows some cause for concern. Seventy-six percent of Democrats say they would support a socialist for president while only 77 percent say they would support an evangelical Christian.

These findings are based on a Gallup question asking, “Between now and the 2020 political conventions, there will be discussion about the qualifications of presidential candidates — their education, age, religion, race and so on. If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be [characteristic], would you vote for that person?”

Gallup first tested Americans’ willingness to vote for candidates who don’t fit the traditional Protestant white male mold in 1937, asking that year whether they would support a well-qualified Catholic, Jew or woman for president. Support for a woman as president was only 33% at that time but has since grown, as has support for other diverse candidates added to the list over the decades.

Since 1958, the sharpest increase in voting tolerance has been for blacks, followed by atheists, women, Jewish candidates and Catholics. More recently, the biggest shift has been for gay or lesbian candidates.

The differences between the parties are striking.

Democrats express at least somewhat more willingness than Republicans to support most of the candidate types tested, with the widest gaps seen for Muslims, atheists and socialists. While at least two in three Democrats say they would vote for presidential candidates with these profiles, support among Republicans drops to just over 40% for Muslims and atheists, and to only 17% for socialists.

Republicans are more accepting than Democrats of evangelical Christians and candidates over 70. While President Donald Trump falls into the latter category, so do four of the leading Democratic candidates: Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg.

Republicans and Democrats are about equally likely to support Catholic and Jewish candidates.

We already know that younger voters are more willing to accept socialism. But Democrats over the age of 50 either don’t remember the cost of socialism, or are simply going with the flow generated by their younger party members.

I think there are a lot of Democrats who probably don’t support socialist policies but want to win elections. Then there are Democrats who don’t want to be seen as “out of step” with others in the party.

The sad fact is, older voters — most of whom oppose socialism — are disappearing and the pendulum is swinging toward the radicals. I just hope I’m not around to witness the destruction socialism will cause.