GALLUP NEWS SERVICE
PRINCETON, NJ -- The fact that Al Gore's choice for running mate, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, is an Orthodox Jew, will probably be of little concern to the vast majority of Americans -- based on historic Gallup polling. Americans have been asked since 1937 by Gallup: "If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be Jewish, would you vote for that person?" In 1937, only 46% of the public said "yes," but that number climbed steadily through the '50s and '60s, reaching 86% by 1969. In Gallup's most recent asking of the question, last year, 92% of Americans said they would vote for a candidate who happened to be Jewish.
Al Gore is a Baptist, and in response to the same type of question, 94% of Americans said they would vote for a Baptist for president. Looked at from a slightly different perspective, 6% of Americans say they would object to voting for a Jewish candidate for president, while 4% say they would object to voting for a Baptist candidate for president.
The most famous example of the religious preference of a candidate becoming an issue in a presidential race was in 1960, when John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, became the Democratic nominee. At that point, only 71% of Americans said they would vote for a Catholic for president, while 21% said they would not. JFK, of course, went on to win anyway. (By last year, 94% of Americans said they would vote for a Catholic for president.)
Both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are Methodists. While Gallup has not asked the public about presidential candidates who are Methodists, the fact that the public does not now object in any large numbers to a candidate being a Baptist, Catholic or Jew suggests that the religious preferences of the Republican ticket will be of little significant consequence.
Gallup asked about the implications of a candidate being a Mormon in 1967, when Michigan Governor George Romney was a possible contender for the Republican nomination. At that point, 75% of Americans said they would vote for a Mormon for president. Unlike the changes observed for the other religious groups, there has been little change in this measure over the years. In Gallup's poll last year, just 79% of Americans said they would vote for a Mormon for president.