December 11, 2007

Does Mormonism Matter?

According to a new Gallup poll, the supposed hurdle for Mormons in a presidential campaign has been somewhat overstated. Only one in six Americans, including a fairly equal representation of Democrats and Republicans, would refuse to vote for a well-qualified Mormon:

A new Gallup Poll finds about one in six Americans, including similar proportions of Republicans and Democrats, indicating they would not support their party's nominee for president if that person were a Mormon.

The poll was conducted in the days immediately following a major speech by Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, in which he attempted to quiet voter concern about his Mormon religion. The speech appeared to be a response to the political situation in Iowa, where former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has made his Christian faith a centerpiece of his Republican presidential campaign, has taken the lead in the Iowa caucus polls.

According to the Dec. 6-9 Gallup survey, Americans are about as likely today (80%) as they were in March (77%) to say they would vote for a Mormon if their party nominated someone of that faith for president. At that time, 19% said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. However, in early February, just before Romney officially declared his candidacy for president, the percentage saying they would not vote for a Mormon was somewhat higher, at 24%.

Interestingly, independents have less of a problem with Mormons than either party. While Democrats and Republicans have 18% of their ranks who won't vote for a Mormon, only 14% among independents see the LDS faith as a problem.

The numbers don't appear far out of range with other contentious categories. Twelve percent of the electorate say they will not vote for a woman or a Hispanic, while only five percent will reject a black candidate. Jewish candidates score better than Mormons at six percent, but not quite as well as Catholics at 4%. Atheists, on the other hand, face an overwhelming opposition of 48%, the only Gallup category where the negative outweighs the positive. A slim majority say they would vote for a homosexual.

So what does this mean for Romney? With 80% of the electorate (and of the GOP) willing to vote for Romney, he's not quite in the vise that some may have assumed. On the other hand, in a tight general election, that 17% in the GOP may be sorely missed. Romney may still need to press the public to understand that he doesn't intend to be the American Pope -- an unfortunate state for the American electorate, and one that should be an embarrassment to all. (via Jim Geraghty)


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