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Monday, July 03, 2006

Here we go again . . . many voters wouldn't support a Mormon for POTUS

Romney's Religion May Be Hurdle in Presidential Bid, Poll Shows

July 3 (Bloomberg) -- Religion hasn't been an issue in American presidential politics since 1960. That may change in 2008 if Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, remains a leading candidate for the Republican nomination.

More than a third of registered voters -- 35 percent -- say they wouldn't vote for a Mormon for president, the latest Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll finds. That's considerably more than say they wouldn't vote for a Catholic, Jew or evangelical Christian. Only a Muslim gets a higher negative response.

By comparison, 22 percent of registered voters say they wouldn't support an evangelical Christian, 14 percent wouldn't back a Jewish candidate, and 9 percent say no to a Catholic. Fifty-three percent say they wouldn't vote for a Muslim.

Among some voters, social concerns may be partly driving the anti-Mormon numbers, said John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron in Ohio who studies the impact of religion on politics. ``It looks like while there may be a religious factor here, it's also an ideological factor,'' he said. ``Liberals are concerned about Mormons.''

Mormon Stances

Mormons, including Romney, have supported a ban on gay marriage and limits on abortion rights and stem-cell research.

Among political groups, the highest opposition to a Mormon candidacy comes from people who describe themselves as liberal Democrats, 50 percent of whom say they wouldn't vote for a Mormon. Thirty-three percent of moderate Republicans say they wouldn't, as do 35 percent of conservative Republicans.

Minorities are more opposed to a Mormon presidential candidate than whites, with 51 percent saying they wouldn't vote for one, versus 31 percent of whites. Sixty percent of nonwhite Protestants say no to a Mormon president.

Be prepared for a barrage of these polls over the coming months. Romney's solid status among the top 2 or 3 GOP frontrunners will draw constant attention to the "Mormon issue". I expect him to be among the first people to annouce his candidacy for two reasons:

1) To help out his still poor "name recognition factor"

2) To give the electorate plenty of time to adjust to the idea of voting for a Mormon

The last poll I've heard quoted (back from Orrin Hatch's run in 2000) is that 17% of Evangelicals wouldn't vote for a Mormon POTUS . . . but this poll says that 22% of the 1300+ people surveyed wouldn't vote for an "Evangelical Christian" POTUS. Does this suggest that Evangelicals are more tolerant of Mormon leaders than the general public is of Evangelical leaders? If this is the case, then I'm not that worried about the religion issue being a huge factor in the southern primaries (I'm more worried about Romney's "Geographic Problem" . . . i.e. being from the northeast, and even worse, Massachusetts.)

I think Leavitt is right on with his belief that Romney's religion will be a "fading issue" as people get to know him and, presumably, like him. In his recent profile/interview with the 700 Club Romney, himself, addressed the 17% question. He essentially said that if you were asked a question about a hypothetical candidate and all you knew about them ex vacuo was their religion, then, sure, you would express concern about those of religions you knew less about or had strong feelings against. Romney followed that up with his belief that as people got to know more about a presidential candidate, that they would judge more on social and fiscal positions than on religious affiliation.

P.S. POTUS stands for "President Of The United States"

Cross-posted at Elect Romney in 2008 Blog

UPDATE: The LA Times has a piece relating to this poll that delves more into the religion issues . . . and also brings up the following (seeming to confirm some of my points above):
In a Roper poll from June 1960, 35 percent of respondents said either that it might be better not to have a Catholic president, or that they would be against it. Then-Sen. John F. Kennedy addressed the Southern Leadership Conference on the subject of his religion that September, and was elected president two months later.

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