I love a good collection of data representing the general mood of the U.S. population on various issues as much as the next person, and I think it's interesting how surprised I tend to be when the topic involves (or includes) atheism.
Back in June, the Gallup folks released results of a poll that asked Americans whether they would be willing to vote for candidates belonging to various demographics. Here are the results:
The good news is that nearly half of those polled would be willing to vote for me should I decide to run for president.
The bad news that we come in dead last, behind gays, Mormons, and Muslims. This is despite the fact that the number of atheists in this country continues to grow, and in 2008, 1,621,000 people identified themselves as being atheist (Source).
Granted, this represents only .7% of the population, but another 11,815,000 people refused to answer the questions, so I'm betting some of those people are heathens as well. The U.S. is pretty religious though, in comparison to some other areas of the world (In 2005, 18% of Europeans identified themselves as non-believers (Source)), so to have .7% of the country be willing to say "I'm an atheist, wheee!", is progress.
However, even if another 5 million people decide that they are atheists by the next time this poll is performed, we probably still won't get very far in the politics game. I've always wondered why it matters what religious sect our candidates fancy, and never (even as a kid) thought it was an appropriate inclusion in their bios. I wondered though, how accurate this poll was. I told someone I know (who believes in God) about it. She was shocked, but when I then asked "Well, would you vote for an atheist for president?", she said without hesitation, "no".
It came down to a trust issue (not too shocking), although when I asked whether she would vote for me for president, she said "of course, I trust YOU". I don't think that's the way it works though. You can't trust me in spite of my being an atheist, and not trust someone else because they're an atheist.
I've spoken before about how often I find myself not taking prejudice against atheists personally. I still don't. I suppose if I was interested in politics, this would matter more to me, and should an atheist ever have the balls to say "Fuck you, I'm running for president and I don't believe in God", I'll give my time and energy to support his/her effort.
My point is, I'm still getting mad on the behalf of other atheists but not on my own behalf. Wonder if/when that'll ever happen?
(A recent poll suggests that there's 42% chance it'll never happen)