Poll: Voters Open to Diverse Presidential Candidates

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An overwhelming majority of Americans would vote for a qualified candidate for president regardless of that person’s gender, minority status or religious belief, according to a new poll.

More than 90 percent of respondents surveyed by Gallup said they would vote for a presidential candidate who was Catholic, black, Hispanic, Jewish, or a woman.

The exact wording of the question – first asked in 1937 -- was recently updated to say, “If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person who happened to be ___, would you vote for that person?”

Demonstrating a shift towards an acceptance of diversity, especially regarding religion, a majority of people said that they would vote for a well-qualified president from a number of backgrounds:

 -- 58 percent would vote for an atheist.

-- 60 percent would vote for a Muslim.

-- 73 percent would vote for an evangelical Christian.

-- 80 percent would vote for a Mormon.

-- 91 percent would vote for a Jew.

-- 93 percent would vote for a Catholic.

The poll also found an overwhelming majority of voters would be willing to cast their ballots for a well-qualified candidate who is black (92 percent) or Hispanic (91 percent).

Ninety-two percent of Americans would also vote for a well-qualified woman, and 74 percent would vote for someone who identifies as gay or lesbian.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to vote for a well-qualified atheist (59 percent/49 percent), Muslim (73 percent/45 percent), black (96 percent/90 percent), gay or lesbian (86 percent/61 percent), or female (97 percent /91 percent) candidate. However, a roughly equal percentage of Democrats and Republicans would vote for a well-qualified Catholic (95 percent/93 percent) or Hispanic (94 percent/91 percent).

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to vote for an evangelical Christian (86 percent/66 percent), a Mormon (84 percent/79 percent), or a Jew (95 percent/92 percent).

Many of the 2016 presidential candidates could benefit from this more tolerant electoral climate.

Bernie Sanders, an independent seeking the Democratic nomination, is 2016’s only Jewish presidential candidate thus far. There are five Catholics – Republicans Jeb Bush, George Pataki, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum, and Democrat Martin O'Malley.  Several candidates have evangelical backgrounds, as well, including Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, and Santorum.

Three candidates represent racial minorities – Carson, Cruz, and Rubio.

Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina, seeking the Democratic and Republican nominations, respectively, are the only female candidates.

The survey of 1,527 adults, conducted June 2-7, has a margin error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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