Romney's faith a factor for GOP primary?
November 23rd, 2011
10:21 AM ET
10 years ago

Romney's faith a factor for GOP primary?

(CNN)-If half the public says they don't know very much about Mormonism and one-third of Republicans say the Mormon religion is not a Christian faith, how will GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney fare in his bid for the White House?

According to a new national survey, it won't affect Romney in a hypothetical general election faceoff with President Barack Obama, but his Mormon faith may have an impact on the former Massachusetts governor's chances in the GOP primaries and caucuses.

Romney is seeking the Republican presidential nomination for a second time and, as it turns out, opinions about his religion haven't changed since he ran the first time, in 2007.

A Pew Research Center poll released late Tuesday indicates that 52% of Americans said they knew "not very much" or nothing about the Mormon religion in 2007, when Romney sought the presidency for the first time, and 50% say the same now. The number who say Mormonism is a Christian religion-51%–is the same in 2011 as it was in 2007.

The poll also indicates that Republican voters who say Mormonism is not a Christian religion are less likely to support Romney for the GOP nomination. Romney's faith may have a bigger impact on his chances in the GOP primary than the general election.

When asked about their preference among eight Republican contenders, Romney edged out businessman Herman Cain for the top spot in the poll 23-22% among GOP registered voters. The one-percentage-point difference between the two candidates falls within the sampling error for the poll and indicates Cain and Romney are statistically tied among Republicans and GOP-leaning voters.

Among white evangelical Protestants, however, Cain has a nine percentage point lead over Romney-26% said they'd choose the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza in a GOP primary, 19% said they'd choose former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and 17% said they'd support Romney, placing him third. Fifteen percent of evangelicals also said Romney's faith would make them less likely to support him.

When white Catholics and white "mainline" Protestants were questioned about their primary picks, Romney placed first, Cain second, and Gingrich third.

But in a hypothetical general election matchup between Romney and the incumbent President Barack Obama, 87% of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters would coalesce around Romney, a number that increases to 91% among white evangelical Protestants, the group that favored Cain for the nomination.

Tied with Catholics, the poll shows more white evangelical Protestants and Catholics back Romney over Obama in a general election than white "mainline" Protestants-84% said they'd choose Romney in the poll. So while he may have more competition in the GOP primary among evangelicals, if Romney advances to the general, the poll reveals he'd have their support.

The Pew Research Center poll was conducted from November 9-14 by telephone among 1,576 registered voters and 716 Republicans and Republican-leaning voters. The overall sampling error of the poll is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The sampling error for Republican and Republican-leaning voters is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Filed under: 2012 • Faith • GOP • Mitt Romney • Polls
soundoff (248 Responses)
  1. Darthnormand

    Note to Voters: I plead to you not to base your decision about this candidate on his faith/standings. Do your research about the Mormon faith, it may not be what you think it is. A Mormon in the white house could be VERY dangerous for gay-rights, stem-cell research, immigration, and other issues both current and some the people fought for. A Mormon in the White House could put the United States back over 100 years.

    November 23, 2011 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  2. ConservaFASCISTS/TEAliban/TEAhadists

    TEAvangelical "christians" are not going to vote for a mormon for President. That's just the plain old truth. Willard "Warren Jeffs" Romney has no chance of winning the Iowa primary and if he doesn't watch out, Huntsman may steal New Hampshire from him.

    November 23, 2011 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  3. rs

    Oddly, in that circular firing squad that is the GOP, I think that Romney's religion is going to be a bigger problem for the Fundamentalist/(radical) Social Conservative base of the GOP/TP, than for the possible general voter. This means that if the GOP/TP actually selects Romney as their candidate, they will likely not get the base out to vote for him and lose the General election. If they will pick someone else attractive to that particular base (Bachmann, Perry, etc.), they will lose in the General Election because they have picked an utterly unsuitable candidate for President- proving they aren't serious about leading America.

    Then again, as Republicans seem to be in the greatest throws of self-destruction not seen since Nixon, maybe they'll just resign themselves to just having lost the trust of most thinking Americans and accept defeat in 2012.

    November 23, 2011 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  4. Mikey

    It shouldn't. Unfortunately, religious bigotry is alive and well in America and widely condoned and practiced, especially by a large portion the evangelical christian religious right. As in many other cases the right is just plain wrong.

    November 23, 2011 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  5. PJ

    Of course he is going to name her!! She is very popular in NH, a woman and will help him win the NH Primary. But don't worry Kelley – he ain't gonna pick you. He will pick the most politically best for his campaign. Either Christie or a Evangelical since he needs to try prove he is Christian.

    November 23, 2011 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  6. Lost in Texas FOREVER

    what would you expect when you run for a party that lacks much diversity or tolerance? The so-called "Christian-right" seem to think that they are going to be the ones to inherit the earth and if you do not agree with their ideology you're doomed. And when you're dealing with a party known for lacking empathy and compassion this is what you get. I bet Newt is going to take a hit just like Perry did for showing a bit of humanity for the offspring of illegal aliens, who are also God's children by the way the far right just doesn't want to acknowledge that.

    November 23, 2011 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  7. Pat Hayden

    II am not a Mitt Romney fan by any means nor a republican for all that matters, but why is faith even a question in a presidential race. It should not be. That is why we have separation of church and state. This became a great big question with President Obama and how a great many believed he was Muslin. He is not, but even if he was that should not matter.
    Please leave religion (a man-made product) out of politics. Religion has not place in politics. God does not care about religion only how you feel in your heart and if you are good person and treat people with respect and grace and morality, respect and grace and morality will be given in return. The President of the United States should also know what the common man whats such as great health care, a great education, clean air and water and jobs. None of the candidates I have witnessed care about anything but those things.

    November 23, 2011 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  8. dare777

    America please stop with what religion politicians are: people in power should govern with respect to morals and ethics and not what they believe in the afterlife or what religion they practice. Separation of church and state is in place for a reason. You cannot govern 300 million by just one persons beliefs so a president's religion is a moot point. If you go by Bush, a born again "christian" cocaine user can start wars and push our troops into dangerous situations because god told him too. That is a joke and so is religion in politics.

    November 23, 2011 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  9. Sophia Thomas owen

    Mitt Romney is a liberal and filp-floper. We don't trust him.

    November 23, 2011 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  10. v_mag

    What folks need to understand is that evangelicals don't support separation of church and state at all. Many of them deny that the Constitution implies separation of church and state. They think religion (their own, that is) should be at the forefront of politics. That's why they consider a completely unqualified Herman Cain to be a potential president. They believe, if they get one of their own in the White House, God will speak to him and we'll all be just fine. They are so wrapped up in their religious (i.e., superstitious) beliefs that logic, reason, facts, and knowledge are irrelevant to them. What I'm saying is that evangelicals (and I hail from a family full of them) are completely different from average Americans, and a candidate's religious beliefs are the most important thing to them. Evangelicals are clearly a major threat to our way of life in this country, as fanatical groups are in any nation.

    November 23, 2011 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  11. ronvan

    You would think that with all the problems we have in this country that someone's religion would be on the bottom of the list!? People raised cain over JFK being catholic, yet if he would have lived, for me, would have been one of our greatest presidents. What about an atheist? What about IF Romney was elected president and turned this country around? I thought religion and state was separate? Maybe we need to change it?

    November 23, 2011 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  12. dare777

    "Note to Voters: I plead to you not to base your decision about this candidate on his faith/standings."
    Darthnormand What the heck are you saying? The first line says don't base your decision on his faith, and then you state he will send us back 100 years because of his faith. I am pretty sure you meant to say: "Do not vote for him BECAUSE of his faith.
    This country should just quit now while we still have resemblance of an intelligent country. We talk about religion in politics like god is real. Bush should have been worshiping MARS for what he has done. We need rulers that are moral and ethical BECAUSE it is the right way and not what his god told him to do otherwise hell awaits. We are doomed.

    November 23, 2011 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  13. Niki

    I've mentioned this earlier in another thread: Obama is THE Christian Candidate.

    November 23, 2011 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  14. Olaf Big

    I admit, it is even harder to take Mormonism seriously than other flavors of Christianity, because the Book of Mormon was written by a known ignorant half-literate crook just 160 years ago or so, and is not cloaked in the awe and mystery of the millenia like the Bible. However, let's admit, being two thousand years older does not make Bible any more trustworthy as a a manifest of faith. Romney's religion will not matter much in the general elections, and the ritght-wingers will just have to get over the fact that Romney is the only GOP candidate who got any chance against Obama. Remember, half a century ago pundits worried that JFK's Catholic faith will hurt him in the elections....

    November 23, 2011 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  15. CNN; The Masters of Spin

    It is simply amazing to me of how many Dems are so very concerned over Romney being elected as GOP nominee.....sort of makes you wonder why the concern??????? I have not heard of ONE Liberal who does not WANT to see a Romney/Obama match.....because their relection strategy is built around it!

    November 23, 2011 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  16. john316

    All the organized ( and non-organized) religions are Cults...some just larger than others.... with lots of money to perpetuate their nonsense.....for some reason, a lot of people want to be a part of a cult...and will support it with lots of must be all the fried food out there .......I think Romney is a good businessman ( as many in the "Cult" world are)....and use it to their advantage......the religion tag is just part of a resume Rotary Club member.....

    November 23, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  17. Randy, San Francisco

    Too many GOP/Tea Party religious social conservatives do not understand that Romney's character is more important than the fact that he is a Mormon. Guess we have not learned anything from the hundreds of years of fighting between the various Christian faiths in Europe.

    November 23, 2011 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  18. RINO Bil

    Romney's faith is only a concern for those evangelicals that want a candidate who will change the United State of America into a theocracy.

    November 23, 2011 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  19. JPX

    As soon as I hear someone use the word "faith" I think, "That's a person who bases decisions on magic and superstition". That is not who I would want in the White House. George W. put us in a war after "Jesus" told him to go for it.

    November 23, 2011 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  20. Mikey

    @Niki – You can't be serious. You mean you want to judge candidates by their actions? The GOP candidates say they are Christian. Just because they act in a manner that is totally unchristian and uncharitable toward their fellow man doesn't mean they are not Christians... after all, they all say they are pro-life – at least while they are running for office. Come on, didn't Jesus cheer for more executions? Didn't he say, "Let the sick die. It's their fault they couldn't afford insurance."? Wasn't Jesus a war mongeror who owned Haliburton stock and made lots of money on no-bid contracts? Didn't he say "The poor are lazy."?

    November 23, 2011 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  21. Rudy NYC

    The only time I consider a person's religion is when they start bragging about their faith. That is when I realize that the person is probalby out to give his religious values preferential treatment, instead of running a democracy that is supposed to be based upon freedom of religion.

    November 23, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  22. josh

    Well, considering that by the rules of his faith, he specifically believes that the entire "christian right" he's trying to appeal to is bound for hell, I could see where it could be a tough sell.

    November 23, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  23. steven

    GOP = Theocracy. So not anyone can be President in this country, only Christians. And GOP Christians do not like non-GOP Christians. And GOP Christians do not act like Christians of their own party. A small group that loves themselves.

    November 23, 2011 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  24. John N Florida

    I don't know how any of these candidates can proffer their faith as any reason to elect them. None of them have any respect at all for the 6th Commandment. Romney's last 2 ads were pure Falsehoods, clipping quotes to make them sound like an expression by a candidate of his position when exactly the opposite is true.
    Some will say 'this is just politics'. I say, after a careful reading of the Commandment, I have yet to read that exemption.

    November 23, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  25. Marcia Greenwood, IN

    I would never vote for Romney. Who knows what he believes-he has been on every side of every issue and his new ads about the President are total lies-with info taken out of context to say exactly the opposite of what the President said. So he is a total liar and will NEVER be President of this country if my vote counts at all.

    November 23, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
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