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Poll: Faith important in 2012, but Mormon skepticism remains
November 8th, 2011
08:25 AM ET

Poll: Faith important in 2012, but Mormon skepticism remains

By Dan Merica, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A poll released Tuesday painted a picture of a religious electorate that has a strong preference toward religious candidates.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute survey, two-thirds of voters (67%) said it is either very important or somewhat important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs.

"Among those who say it is important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs, most say that what matters is simply holding strong religious beliefs, rather than holding particular religious beliefs," the survey said.

Rick Perry's faith journey culminates in presidential run

At a press briefing about the survey, Washington College political scientist Melissa Deckman said that importance of candidates' religiosity "is a notion that... transcends party."

At the same time, the electorate is split over their comfort level with a specific religion, Mormonism, and the prospect of a Mormon serving as president.

A majority of voters (53%) said they were somewhat or very comfortable with a Mormon president, while 42% said a Mormon president would make them somewhat or very uncomfortable.

"These findings suggest that when voters report that it is important that a candidate have strong religious beliefs, they have certain types of religious beliefs in mind, and hold significant reservations about the beliefs of some minority religious groups," the study said.

How Mitt Romney's Mormonism shaped his life and politics

"Clearly, most Americans like political candidates to have some sort of general civil religious beliefs," Deckman said.

"The data shows clearly here a lot of Americans show discomfort with Mormons, 42% acknowledge that, but they express more discomfort with atheists and Muslims than they do with Mormons," Deckman added.

The level of comfort with a Mormon president has risen to importance in the 2012 nomination battle because there are two Mormon candidates in the race, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

In the most recent USA Today/ Gallup poll, Romney is tied with businessman Herman Cain at the top of the field, a position Romney has maintained throughout this race.

Though only around one-third of respondents said that Mormonism is not a Christian religion, two-thirds (66%) of voters said that the religious beliefs of Mormons are somewhat or very different from their own.

Additionally, 19% of voters identified they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who had strong religious beliefs other than their own.

Mormon Church aims to counter its lily-white image

According to the study, all the data, "reveals that a substantial number of voters (42%) express concern about a Mormon becoming president."

Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI, noted at the briefing that other surveys have shown half of Americans know someone who is Mormon. "If there's a silver lining, it's that those opinions may not be strongly held," he said, adding the Romney could counter those loosely-held beliefs about Mormons on the campaign trail.

"There is no (religious) test for office. And yet it is one of the most important tests for office," said Jose Casanova, an expert in the sociology of religion at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, who also spoke at the release of the survey results. "So no official test, yet it is crucial for most voters."

The survey also examined views of income inequality in America, an issue that has thrust to the forefront of public discourse by the Occupy protests going on in cities around the world.

"A strong majority (60%) of Americans agree that the country would be better off if the distribution of wealth was more equal," the study said. Thirty-nine percent of respondents disagreed.

That questions was largely partisan, with 78% of Democrats and 60% of independents agreeing the country would be better, compared to 63% of Republicans who disagreed with that sentiment.

Explain it to me: Mormonism

The American Values Survey was conducted between September 22 and October 2 over the telephone. The 1,505 respondent survey comes with a plus or minus 2.5 percent margin of error.

CNN's Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Faith • Politics • Polls

soundoff (803 Responses)
  1. John

    Hey, Abinadi, you worship joe smith who had many slaves & many wives, again, I am sure Jesus is very proud of you!!!!!

    November 8, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • abinadi

      So, how many times have you committed adultery and fornication? How many wives do you have? I am tired of the hypocrisy going on here.

      November 8, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • abinadi

      Jesus disliked (to put it mildly) the Pharisees not because they were Pharisees (most of the Jews were Pharisees), but because they were hypocrites. The people who criticized him and tried to ensnare him taught the people against adultery and fornication, but they were guilty of those things themselves. They were vile people who were headed straight for perdition.

      November 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  2. Jason

    Scott, any more famous Mormons? Your list is very impressive.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  3. John

    Gee, what are the odds that at the exact time the Government was getting them to choose or bye-bye tax exempt, you guys really are that dumb & brainwashed , unbelievable!!!!!!!

    November 8, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  4. Kevin

    I am ok with trashing Mormonism. Religion is just an idea or set of ideas and practices. How does it get a pass? There are some freaky mind-control cults out there and as it happens, Mormonism is a lot different from religion as most Americans practice it. They are an off-shoot of Christianity with their own new holy book and a bigamy practicing prophet–just like Islam, as it happens. Individual Mormons should be treated with respect, but if a Mormon bishop wants to be president and bases his policies on his Mormon beliefs, those beliefs should be investigated.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • abinadi

      So, Kevin, why don't you give us your religion. I am sure we would all like an equal chance at picking it apart and trashing it.

      November 8, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Brad

      Hi abinadi. The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

      November 8, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Thanks, Brad.

      November 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  5. ObamaJoe

    (CNN) - Thousands of supporters have donated money to outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in order to pay a 15 million yuan ($2.3 million) tax bill from the Chinese government.

    The controversial artist has already received more than 6,000 yuan ($958,000) from more than 22,200 people.

    By Susannah Palk, CNN
    updated 2:57 PM EST, Tue November 8, 2011

    November 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  6. ObamaJoe

    guys,,,,,go and occupy China,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,they are so rich !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! they even donate money to help a guy paying his $ 2.3 million tax,,,,,,,,,,What a heaven for rich,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,go and occupy China !

    November 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  7. 1978 - the year God decided black people were worthy!!

    For 150 years in the Mormon church, black people were not allowed the LDS Priesthood.. Until.. one day.. in 1978, he suddenly changed his mind, whispered something to the "Prophet" Spencer Kimball and blacks became eligible. Just like that!

    November 8, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Jason

      You got it wrong brother....it was "Poof, just like that"

      November 8, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • John

      prophet spence put you together like a cheap suit. DO YOU BELIEVE THE BLACK RACE DESERVES AN APOLOGY, IF NOT PLEASE ALL BLACKS BOYCOTT THIS CULT!

      November 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • John

      ARE YOU REALLY THAT BRAINWASHED! as an African American, I believe bigotry will never leave your cult!

      November 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • John

      I am sure Jesus is very proud of all you who feel that way, & yes you are that dumb that you didnt know the true story!

      November 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • abinadi

      At least we didn't burn them at the cross or hang them from trees or exclude them from riding on our buses or exclude them from our schools. I think there is a bit of hypocrisy going on here.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • abinadi

      By the way, 1978, you are a bigot yourself, so what gives you the right?

      November 8, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • John

      BET is gootta see this statement!!! My Brothers, Please boycott all mormon corporations. To Be Cont.

      November 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  8. Steve

    It is not bigoted to note that the beliefs of Mormonism conflict with those of traditional Christianity, and Mormons may proclaim this proudly, because they assert that Christianity lost its way. I, for one, prefer to have as my leader one with similiar beliefs, and not to elect one who holds that my Divine Saviour is a created Spirit Brother of Satan. Again, let Mormons proclaim proudly their "correction" of Christian excess, but I do not want to validate their views with my vote.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  9. Joseph Smith's translation

    Let me see, if I stare into a hat with rocks in the bottom of it, perhaps I can create a religion too.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  10. Elaine Stewart

    Soundslike the dayswith President Kennedy and his Catholism. People worried themselves sillyworrying about the Pope. You would think in this day and age we would be a little smarter. a persons religionis personal and does not dictate how he would be as president. The only thing that worries e is that he is Republican.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  11. Reality

    Not so fast with said poll results:

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)
    (The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.)

    November 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  12. David Johnson

    If the Shroud of Turin is actually real and contains the DNA of Christ, It may be possible to clone the Messiah. This may be the second coming, that some Christians believe in.

    Think of it, religious nuts! You don't have to try and take over the country by political means. You can grow a Jesus and raise Him how you want Him! The hair on the back of my neck is standing up!

    I don't know if there would be any genetic memory, but wouldn't it be a hoot if the clone was like terrified of wood? LOL

    Cheers!

    November 8, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Chuckles

      apart from the Shroud of Turin being proven false, I do love the delicious irony that had it been authenticated and the real blood of jesus was found there, we would be able to clone except, OOPS! Christians are opposed. Can we say identi.ty crisis?

      November 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  13. lunchbreaker

    The use of the word cult is pointless in this debate According to the actual defenition shown below, ALL religions are cults. I'm not saying all religions are bad, but just be upfront about it: most poeple consider non-mainstream religions as cults. They use the word to be little beliefs that are not one of the "major" religions or ones they just think are ridiculous. Christians believe a man getting swallowed by a giant fish and surviving is acceptable, while a man translating golden plates out of ahat is just plain silly. Just quit beating around the bush and admit you don't like Mormans because they are not Christians (even though they do believe in Jesus and technically would be another denomiation).
    cult   /kʌlt/ Show Spelled[kuhlt] noun
    1.a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
    2.an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitnesscult.
    3.the objectof such devotion.
    4.a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
    5.Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a setof rites centering around their sacred symbols.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  14. Brad

    It is hard to get a fix on Romney regarding climate change, the 2nd amendment, abortion rights, a coherent strategy of deficit reduction and reform of the tax code, health care and so on. Constancy of faith would be refreshing since he is a moving target on most other issues.

    November 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  15. Voice of Reason

    This entire commentary is as offensive as it is irrelevant. I see bigotry that would be unacceptable if directed at ANY other faith, but semmingly OK if we want to pick on Mormons. "Hey, it's OK – we can trash Mormons, after all, Everybody likes South Park..."

    To all of you carrying on so loudly about 'seperation of chruch and state' – I agree with you – we should vote the person, not the religion, nor the party. But that same 1st amendment cuts both ways. It is also there as a protection to people's faith. To discredit or discount a person's qualifications based solely on their faith is setting aside the bedrock principles upon which this country was founded.

    I'm probably not the only Mormon who will be voting for Obama next November, but all the same – it pulls at my heartstrings to see/hear all this 1) hate, 2) ignorance, and 3) bigotry being spouted by supposed A) Christians and B) supporters of American Democracy. On ALL sides of both the political and religious spectra.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Vesstair

      Not sure if I agree with you or not... disregarding someone just because of their faith isn't right, but it IS reasonable to disregard someone because of how their faith shapes their beliefs and governing strategy. To give an example (outside Christianity, because I don't feel like arguing with some of the irrational zealots on here): I have no problem voting for a Muslim. I do have a problem voting for a Muslim who wants to impose Sharia law.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Brad

      We recently had a close look a Rick Perry's journey of faith. Apparently his political career is a ministry, of which he says “I’ve just always been really stunned by how big a pulpit I was going to have”. Is it possible to "vote the person, not the religion" in this case?

      November 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Vesstair: Agreed, but of all the GOP candidates, Romney and Huntsman are among the ones who are leaning the LEAST toward imposing their views on others. I see on this thread people who say things like our women are all going to be churning butter and wearing long sleeves, etc... Listen to these men and ask yourself how ridiculous is that?

      And just to remind everyone here... EVERY candidate in the race for president in 2012 (including Obama) has professed a Christian faith. Without exception. So it's not a question of whether Christian is OK or not – but has now devolved into WHAT TYPE of Christianity? Is it MY TYPE of Christianity? Is is Christian ENOUGH for MY tastes? Again ridiculous. We should vote for the person – and what we think they stand for. If you are voting based on religious preference, then you are simply participating in an unspoken referendum on an national religion. Definitely *not* what America is all about.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  16. David Johnson

    Yep, Romney will be the Republican nominee, because everyone else is too stupid. But, the general public won't vote for him, because he believes even dumber stuff than Christians do. Obama will get a second term. Hmmm... Maybe there is a god.

    Cheers!

    November 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  17. diversities

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the name of the church you are talking about. I joined the church cuz of personal conviction that the Book of Mormon is true. I noticed that those who never read it are the once spreading gossips and negative ideas, based on what they heared. A mormon president is not a spokesman of the church, he is the leader of an entire nation! even the world. All he can share is his genuine value as a person. Everybody has religious freedom, live yours to the fullest and you will be blessed only for good choices. A mormon president is a public servant of all american.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @diversities

      I read the Book of Mormon. I even saw the movie... that episode of South Park about the Mormon religion. Yep, there is much to believe there. LOL

      Why isn't there even one piece of evidence that Mormonism isn't just B.S.?

      Cheers!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @David Johnson: Your reply belies both an arrogance born of bigotry, and an ignorance of faith and what makes it a part of someone's life. If you are using 'South Park' as your source of information on ANYTHING (religion or otherwise), then you forfeit your right to be taken seriously in ANY real forum for discussion.

      November 8, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  18. ANDREW

    I would vote for either Romney or Huntsmen. Both great candidates.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Andrew

      You should vote for Christians, Andrew.

      Cheers!

      November 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain

    Here's why my Mormon skepticism remains: Several years ago, my Mormon neighbors told me that their church told them to boycott all things Disney because Disney offered benefits to domestic partners. Then, a couple years later, they went to Disneyland and had a great. I expressed my surprise that they had gone, given the ban. They told me that the Church had changed its mind and now told them it was OK to have business with Disney.

    In a nutshell, Mormons don't think independently and the church leaders have a tremendous amount of control over their members.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • ANDREW

      The church never told anyone to boycott anything. A church can't control what it's membership chooses to boycott. I'm a Mormon, Lifelong, and the church would never tell us to boycott anything... EVER!!!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Mac

      I am with Andrew on this. The Lds Church never came out with a statement like this. It sounds like they were doing something independent of themselves and then attempted to use the Church as a scapegoat for whatever reason.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • John

      Boy , you got that right, They members are so brainwashed from the cult leaders, they actually believe that one day in 1978 God called down to issue that blacks are ok for the priesthood. When in fact that it was the Us government pressure of revoking their tax exempt status, Yea they are extremely brainwashed!!!!!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Ryan

      Joseph Smith Jr., the first prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, "Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves." The Church is not a cult and did not call for a boycott of Disney.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Godless

      Quite: "...church leaders have a tremendous amount of control over their members"

      Actually, church leaders usually don't have control over their "members," hence all the abuse scandals...

      November 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Dude! If I'm not mistaken, that was the Southern Baptists that boycotted Disney. They didn't like the fact that Disney doesn't hate gays, the way the god intended.

      Disney, to my knowledge, did not change any of its policies. The Boycott wasn't successful and was finally lifted, with a stern warning to Disney that the boycott could be reinstated if needed!

      I heard that the message was filed under, "who gives a sh!t"?

      Cheers!

      November 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • John

      you got that right! they are so bad that the priests shows up at the house if they dont go to church, As god as my witness this happens all the time in Hurricane Utah.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • John

      sorry, last person, wrong person, They are so bad the priests shows up at your door if they dont see you at church, Hurricane, Utah

      November 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  20. Scott

    It shocks me that so many Americans despise Mormons so much when our current Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (a democrat I might add), is a Mormon. It also shocks me to think that, this coming weekend, millions of Americans will flock to movie theaters around the world to watch "Twilight: Breaking Dawn," a movie based on a book written by Stephanie Meyer–a Mormon. It further shocks me when I think that, last night, millions of Americans still tuned into Monday Night Football even though Steve Young, a Mormon and descendant of Brigham Young, was one of the ESPN broadcasters. (Any Eagles fans out there? Because Eagles head coach Andy Reid is also a Mormon.) But the most shocking of all, regardless of what Americans watched last night, is that they were all watching it on a television, a device created by Philo T. Farnsworth–a Mormon.

    November 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • John

      Very simple question, Do you think the head morman should issue an overdue apology to the black race for all those years of bigotry? Please have courage & say yes It never came in 1978, what makes you guys so special that you are to big & arrogant that thats never gonna happen, can you spell BIGOTRY?

      November 8, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Scott

      John, can you spell "Mormon"? (not "Morman") And yes, I do think the LDS Church needs to issue an apology to its black members for not allowing them to receive the priesthood until 1978. And yes, full acceptance did come to blacks in 1978. That's why, today, Black Mormons include names like Eldridge Cleaver (a leading member of the Black Panther Party) and Gladys Knight.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Concerned Lutheran

      It wasn't until the 1980's that the various synods of Lutherans took official positions against the antisemitic writings of Martin Luther. And Luther is not regarded by Lutherans as a prophet (or anything but an important theologian). Perhaps the Mormon faith is mired in its dependence on the words of latter-day prophets and even more resistant to change. We may be waiting a while to see an Apology – it took us over 400 years.

      November 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.