Americans continue to see the Mormon faith as unfamiliar and different. Half
say they know little or nothing about Mormonism, half say it is a Christian
religion while a third say it is not, and roughly two-thirds believe Mormonism
is “very different” from their own beliefs. There has been virtually no change
in these impressions over the past four years.
half of all voters, and 60% of evangelical Republicans, know that Mitt Romney
is a Mormon. The former Massachusetts governor’s religion has implications for
his nomination run but not for the general election, should he be nominated as
his party’s standard bearer.
evangelical Protestants – a key element of the GOP electoral base – are more
inclined than the public as a whole to view Mormonism as a non-Christian faith.
And this view is linked to opinions about Romney: Republicans who say Mormonism
is not a Christian religion are less likely to support Romney for the GOP
nomination and offer a less favorable assessment of him generally. But they
seem prepared to overwhelmingly back him in a run against Obama in the general
are the principal findings from a new national survey by the Pew Research
Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion &
Public Life, conducted Nov. 9-14 among 2,001 adults, including 1,576 registered
voters. In the race for the GOP nomination, Romney trails Herman Cain by nine points
(26% to 17%) among white evangelical Republican and Republican-leaning voters.
Romney leads among white mainline Protestant Republicans (26% to 17% over Cain)
and runs about even with Cain among white Catholic Republican voters (26%
Romney, 23% Cain).
is no evidence that Romney’s Mormon faith would prevent rank-and-file
Republicans, including white evangelicals, from coalescing around him if he
wins the GOP nomination. Rather, the same Republicans who may have doubts about
Romney’s faith are among the most vehement opponents of Barack Obama. Fully 91%
of white evangelical Republican voters say they would back Romney over Obama in
a general election matchup, and 79% would support Romney strongly. Overall,
white evangelicals would be among the strongest Romney supporters if he is the
GOP nominee challenging Obama next fall.
survey finds that overall opinions about Mormonism have changed very little
since Romney’s last race for the White House. About half (49%) say they know a
great deal or some about the Mormon religion. And about half (51%) say the
Mormon religion is Christian. Roughly a third (32%) say Mormonism is not a
Christian faith – a figure that rises to 47% among white evangelical
asked what one word best describes their impression of the Mormon religion,
most Americans either have no opinion or offer relatively neutral words like different, conservative, Christian or Utah.
one-in-four (24%) give assessments that are negative in tone. Overall, cult is the most frequently used word. Other negative terms
include polygamy, restrictive,
strange and misguided.
An additional 18% offer positive words such as good,
faithful and honest.
The overall balance of positive, negative and neutral words, as well as the
words themselves, are largely unchanged from how people described Mormonism
four years ago.
of the Mormon faith are virtually identical across party lines: roughly
two-thirds of both Republicans and Democrats say Mormon beliefs are very
different from their own, and roughly a third across party lines say the Mormon
religion is not Christian.
Republican and Republican-leaning voters evaluate Romney, very few say his
faith is a factor. A majority of Republican and Republican-leaning voters (56%)
know that Romney is a Mormon. But just 8% say Romney’s religion makes them less
likely to vote for him; 44% say it would not make a difference. Among white
evangelical Republican voters, however, 15% say Romney’s religion would make
them less likely to support him.
about the Mormon religion are a factor in how GOP voters view Romney. Roughly
six-in-ten (61%) Republican and Republican-leaning voters who say that
Mormonism is a Christian religion have a favorable opinion of Romney. That
compares with 51% of those who say that it is not a Christian religion. And
Republican voters who say Mormonism is not Christian are far less likely to
support Romney for the GOP nomination.
these same Republicans also are among the strongest critics of Obama. Nearly
six-in-ten Republican voters (58%) who do not view Mormonism as Christian have
a very unfavorable opinion of Obama; that
compares with 44% of those who say it is Christian.
support for Romney in a general election matchup with Obama is just as high
among Republican voters who say Mormonism is not a Christian religion as among
those who say it is (89% and 86%, respectively).
Photo Credit: © 2010 L. Toshio Kishiyama