Date of Conferral







Hedy R. Dexter


Atheists are underrepresented in political office compared to their numbers in the general population. In the United States, anti-atheist prejudice is prevalent, likely contributing to the disparity in atheist representation. Informed by social identity theory and the sociofunctional approach to prejudice, the purpose of this study was to examine the comparative electability of atheists compared to other minority religious identities, as well as one nonminority option for a baseline reference of attitudes. Using the voter likelihood scale and three 7-point semantic differential scales, 579 participants rated their intention to vote for and their feelings of trust, disgust, and fear toward one of four political candidates representing different religious groups but who were otherwise the same candidate (Protestant, Mormon, Scientologist, and atheist) presented to them randomly. Data were analyzed using four separate 2 X 4 factorial analyses of variance. Findings suggest that atheists are not viewed as unfavorably as Scientologists (groups perceived as cults), though atheists were viewed unfavorably on all measures of trust, disgust, and fear. Generating grassroots discourse about religious minority underrepresentation in elected office, as well as the prejudicial views many Americans hold toward minority religions, may build awareness and acceptance leading to positive social change.