I don't know about people's skill or intentions regarding atemi, just what they have said regarding it.
Also sometimes we just use atemi to show uke where they are vulnerable and that they better guard their openings (my school is real big on this) while receiving their technique. In this case, atemi seems to be a training tool like a quick feint to show an opening in uke's defenses. And if you saw us doing this, it could be easily be misunderstood as poor atemi, when the purpose really wasn't to strike but to teach uke to protect themselves. (so here it's neither to disable nor to give a discisive strike; it's a training tool)
This makes sense - never thought of that.