When you're bringing that special person home to meet the family, remember this: it's God, not politics, that families will judge them on.
Family political arguments are as American as apple pie, but it turns out that people don't care much about partisanship when it comes to relationships. Fewer than one in 10 say they'd be "unhappy" if an immediate family member married a Republican or a Democrat, according to a new Pew Research Center poll which, on other fronts, tracked record levels of political polarization.
Perhaps blind to Thanksgiving debates to come (or relishing the prospect), more than three quarters say the politics of their future in-laws don't matter. One in seven would be happy with a partisan, so long as they're the "right" party. The poll finds pockets of discontent - 30 percent of Americans who have consistently conservative political views would frown upon a Democrat marrying into the family, as would 23 percent of solid liberals if a Republican married in. But even in these deeply political groups, the vast majority say they wouldn't care.
Marrying an atheist is far more controversial. Nearly half of the public, 49 percent, would be upset if a family member married "someone who doesn't believe in God." Discomfort with atheists joining the family far outpaces levels for gun owners (19 percent), someone without a college degree (14 percent), a different race (11 percent), or someone born and raised outside the United States (7 percent).
Just 9 percent would be uncomfortable with a family member marrying a born-again Christian, on the other hand. In fact, of all the attributes tested, this is the one that would bring the most happiness, with 32 percent saying so. That's driven by the 57 percent of consistent conservatives and 42 percent of "mostly conservative" people who would be happy about a born-again Christian joining the family.
While the poll shows Americans' partisan vitriol is tempered in family matters, atheism's negative stigma extends to politics as well. While about one in five Americans are religiously unaffiliated and five percent don't believe in God, only one member of Congress reports no religious affiliation (0.2 percent), according to the Pew Religion and Public Life Project. Arizona Democrat Krysten Sinema is the first congressperson to describe her religion as "none," but even she has distanced herself from the term "atheist."
With the stigma of atheism spanning family matters and politics, belief in God may become the last religious test for political candidates.
The Pew Research Center poll was conducted January 23-March 16 among a random national sample of 10,013 adults on landline and cellular phones with live interviewers. The margin of error for overall results ranges between 1.1 to 2 percentage points; the error margin ranges from 2.9 to 6.1 percentage points for political subgroups such as “Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents” or “consistent conservatives.” Full methodology and question wording available at pewresearch.org.
Peyton M. Craighill contributed to this report.