When it comes to how Americans feel about atheists, we generate more “warm feelings” today compared to three years ago. In fact, the positive change is higher than any other religious affiliation. The bad news is we’re still pretty damn low on the overall list.
That’s one of several facts we learned today in a new survey from the Pew Research Center in which various religious groups (including atheists) were rated on a “feeling thermometer.” Here’s a summary of the interesting results.
1) Americans still don’t have particularly warm feelings toward atheists… but they like us more now than they did in 2014.
2) Americans have warmer feelings toward all major religious demographic groups… except evangelical Christians.
Just look at that flat line above.
Evangelical Christians, rated relatively warmly at 61 degrees, are the only group for which the mean rating did not change since the question was last asked in 2014.
Why is that? Knowing someone from a particular group makes you more likely to have positive feelings about them, and fewer people know an evangelical Christian today compared to 2014. (We’re becoming increasingly segregated by our beliefs.) You could also argue that evangelicals’ support of Trump hardly made them any friends. If you dislike Trump, you probably dislike his most vocal supporters.
3) Atheists have made gains among both Democrats and Republicans. Feelings about evangelicals haven’t changed in either group.
4) Old people really dislike atheists. Young people like atheists just as much as other Christians (who have always had the edge) — and more than Mormons.
We’re moving up in the world! Christians, Catholics, and Jews, not so much.
5) Evangelicals really don’t like atheists. But atheists like evangelicals even less.
That’s actually a jump up on the evangelical side: In 2014, they only gave us a 25% rating compared to today’s 33%.
6) 60% of Americans say they personally know an atheist.
60% isn’t a bad number, but there’s a lot of room for growth. The more people who know us, the less likely they are to demonize us.
Overall, this is excellent news for atheists and religious groups that aren’t in the majority. Our voices are being heard. People are warming up to us. And people aren’t feeling any better about religious groups traditionally in power. It’s clear their money and influence isn’t generating as much goodwill as it used to — and that’s not likely to change the more their leaders cozy up to the current Republican administration.