A new survey from Pew shows that for the most part, Americans are unenthusiastic about their current slate of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination – or even know who they are. Only Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul approached Mitt Romney in terms of name recognition, but 60% of those surveyed said that they would never vote for them. Interestingly, though, there was good news for Romney in the poll: 68% of survey respondents said that it would not matter to them if their candidate was a Mormon.
Romney’s religion (there has never before been a Mormon president) has not as yet factored greatly into early primary debates, and if this data holds true, it may not prove to be much of an obstacle. To give you some sense of context, 61% of Americans said that they would be less likely to support an atheist, compared to 25% who said that they would be less likely to support a Mormon. Those are some striking statistics, and should certainly be encouraging to Romney.
According to Joanna Brooks, writing for Religion Dispatches, “Liberal democrats polled least likely to support a Mormon (41%). White evangelical Christians placed second, with about 34% saying they would not vote for a Mormon candidate.”
It’s interesting that these two groups are together in their comparatively low support for Mormon candidates. Brooks hypothesizes that for liberals, the ties between Mormonism and conservatism, “cemented,” she writes, “by the likes of Glenn Beck as well as by the LDS Church’s own heavy, decades-long investment in anti-LGBT equality politics,” may turn off potential supporters. And she blames “more than a century of anti-Mormon dogmatism by evangelical Christian preachers” as the reason for white evangelicals’ lack of support.
The question is how Romney’s religion will fit into his campaign. Will it be as much of an issue as John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism? Or has Mormonism become mainstream enough that it will not become a serious issue in the Republican primary fray?
Photo from Gage Skidmore's Flickr.