Match Frame

Thoughts from an American editor and filmmaker in New Zealand about film and video production and post-production. Plus whatever else I feel like talking about.

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Location: Balmoral, Auckland, New Zealand

A work in progress.

Monday, February 11, 2008

who it's okay to hate in America

I was looking at the political blogs today, and I stumbled across this interesting poll.

I don't think the results reflect reality so much as they reflect who people are willing to admit they are biased against. And taken that way, the poll says no group is more okay to discriminate against than ...

atheists.

I'm a little stunned by that result, but I suppose I shouldn't be. I guess I've always been more of a believer in "country founded for freedom of belief" than "country founded as religious state" despite the various references to theism that permeate our national culture. (Swearing in on bibles, the pledge, etc.)

Relatedly: I hadn't realized McCain was 72. If that poll is remotely accurate, his problems just got bigger. (Not that he doesn't have enough to worry about after the latest round of primaries.)

4 Comments:

OpenID Todd Stadler said...

It's possible that the poll reflects, as you posit, "who people ... are biased against", though I think "hate" and "discriminate against" are rather overstating things.

What I mean is that it's possible that, given these questions, people were trying to answer who they thought might best reflect their interests as President. Which isn't necessarily the same as "do you hate this class of people?" Based on poll results I've seen, women tend to trust Hillary to represent them better in the White House than they do Obama. Bias? Maybe. Prejudice? Maybe not -- it's at least sensible that a person "like me" will do the things I most prefer.

Now, knowing that a person is black or female doesn't necessarily tell you much about their thought process. You can make some statistical generalizations, but from that one fact, you don't know much about that candidate and whether they agree with you or not. But, of that list of traits the question asked about, I would say that "atheist" offers the most possible information on a candidate's values and beliefs. I would also note that, at least nominally, such beliefs are not in line with most those of most Americans.

Of course, I have my own, theist, bias here.

12/2/08 12:29 PM  
Blogger dd said...

"Hate" is probably overstated, though I don't think "discriminate" is. Saying that you don't believe a person deserves to get a job - any job - solely because of one fact about them, regardless of individual merit, is pretty much the definition of discrimination.

I suppose theism or atheism offers insight into part of the candidate's belief structure, but I don't agree that it informs how they would do their job or their policy decisions to such an extent that it gives you sufficient information to discriminate against them. I'm trying to think of an issue, apart from specifically theist issues like prayer in school, where you can deduce a policy position from a person's atheism, and coming up empty. There are even atheist cases to be made against abortion (albeit not the typical ones).

At any rate, the fact that more than half the country (extrapolating from this poll, anyway) would refuse to vote for somebody simply because they were atheist was shocking to me. If the number was closer to 20%, I wouldn't have been surprised at all.

I wish they had asked "Muslim" in this poll. That would have been interesting.

12/2/08 12:58 PM  
OpenID Todd Stadler said...

Doug, I guess it's not the definition of "discriminate" that I'm objecting to so much as the connotation. That and the conflation of voting with "believ[ing] a person deserves to get a job".

I mean, by your logic here, would it be discriminatory to say a person couldn't be President merely because they're a Republican or not? Or a veteran or not? I believe it's illegal to base employment on such criteria, but it's quite legal (and, I would argue, okay) to vote based on them.

I mean, honestly, are you really saying that, all other things being equal, you would gladly consider voting for a candidate who held an apocalyptic worldview in which the United States must hasten the final battle between good and evil (that is, the imminent Muslim caliphate)? That you wouldn't worry about how such beliefs would affect his performance as Commander-in-Chief?

And sure, some atheists might oppose abortion. Heck, many Christians do! I still feel comfortable assuming, lacking any other indicators (as in this poll), that the atheist is pro-choice and the Christian possibly pro-life. And, again lacking any other indicators, that would have an influence on my response to such a poll.

Of course, flesh that question out to real people, and such assumptions tend to go away. Which, I believe, was the point of such a poll. People oppose abstract 72-year-old and thrice-married candidates much more than they do/did McCain and Giuliani.

13/2/08 2:19 PM  
Blogger dd said...

by your logic here, would it be discriminatory to say a person couldn't be President merely because they're a Republican or not? Or a veteran or not?

Party affiliation gets to policy decisions gets to the core of what the job definition is. Therefore, it's very relevant and outside of discrimination. I would personally never say I would never vote for a Republican, simply because different parties have meant different things over time.

On the other hand, if you were to rule somebody out exclusively because they were (or weren't) a veteran, then sure, that would be discrimination to my mind.

I mean, honestly, are you really saying that, all other things being equal, you would gladly consider voting for a candidate who held an apocalyptic worldview in which the United States must hasten the final battle between good and evil (that is, the imminent Muslim caliphate)? That you wouldn't worry about how such beliefs would affect his performance as Commander-in-Chief?

Of course I'm not saying that, and if this question was posed to me and "member of an apocalyptic death cult" was an answer, hell yeah, I'd say no. But you've given a specific view that directly impacts policy beliefs in a much more concrete and specific way than, at least in my estimation, atheism does. Again, bear in mind the question is not "would you be less likely to vote for ..." but ... well, let me quote:

" If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be …, would you vote for that person?"

I guess imagining a well-qualified death cultist is as beyond the pale for me as a well-qualified atheist is for over half the respondents. Also note the question is party-neutral.

You're right that it's a vague and overbroad question and it does evaporate with specificity (in some cases; change the woman's name to Hillary Clinton and it goes in the other direction).

And I think I just got your main point - that discrimination is illegal. And I suppose I don't mean to make that an absolute connection. Don't get me wrong, in a democracy people can and should vote how they want, and refusing to vote for somebody because of their belief, hair color, skin color, whatever is and should always be anybody's freedom, even if said decision is totally batshit insane. That's the ugly beauty of democracy.

But voting is, in many ways, making a hiring decision for a job. And while I don't intend to try to make a claim for atheists as a protected class (it's not like I'm one myself, so I don't have a dog in this show as such), I do suspect that some subset of the respondents might choose to discriminate against atheists in decisions for other jobs, in which said beliefs are equally ir/relevant. ("They might steal money from the till! After all, they don't believe in hell!")

13/2/08 4:43 PM  

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