Only 4 out of 10 Americans even know Mitt Romney is Mormon, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. And the only group that is catching up to this fact about Romney are white Evangelicals.This is bad news for Romney.
According to the PRRI, knowledge of Romney’s faith rose among white Evangelicals from 44 per cent in July to 53 per cent this month. That’s not surprising. Close watchers have noticed that that influential Evangelicals like Mark Driscoll have recently used the occasion of Mitt Romney’s prominence to declare that “Mormonism is a cult.”
Independent voters have almost no clue about Romney’s faith whatsoever, only one third of them can identify his religion.
So why is this a problem for Romney?
1) Reports like this are a licence for the media to do even more stories on Mitt Romney’s faith, highlighting differences between the Mormon faith and mainstream Christianity. If Romney is the nominee the media will file report after report asking other influential Christian pastors whether Mormonism is a cult, and whether Evangelicals should or will vote for him. Just by asking it enough times, the media will make this a live question in the 2012 election.
2) According to Gallup, nearly 1 in 4 Americans would not vote for a Mormon for president. And that number has held steady since about 1967.
Republicans are slightly more open to the idea of a Mormon president than Democrats, only 20 per cent of GOP voters told Gallup in June they would refuse to vote for their own party’s nominee if he “happened to be Mormon.” Gallup’s survey says there are few groups trusted less by the American public than Mormons:
At 22%, Americans’ resistance to electing a Mormon president, even one nominated by their own party, is exceeded only by their opposition to electing someone who is either gay or lesbian (32%) or an atheist (49%).
Even if the prospect of a second Obama term frightens a portion of these hesitant Republican voters into pulling the lever for Romney despite their doubts, any drag on his candidacy could harm him in close states like Virginia, Ohio, or Florida.
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