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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. Kay

    Many who claim to have faith in the teachings of the Bible have no such thing, especially amongst Republicans.

    Much of the OT, especially the so-called "Books of the Prophets" go on and on about the godhead lammenting the fact that people have turned to idols, that false prophets are leading them, and that if they really want to do what is right they will house the homeless, feed the hungry, free the oppressed, and care for the sick, the alien, the orhpan and the widows. In other words, they are called to care for "the least of these".

    Remember here that Jesus was a practicing and devout Jew who preached Judaism and was lammenting the fact that his people weren't doing what the Lord had asked them to do over and over again.

    The people on the "right" aren't following Jesus, they're following Paul and the church.

    November 9, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Waite, I don't understand. Are you saying that those who follow Paul are not followers of Christ?

      November 9, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  2. julian

    The designation of Christian was a label made-up by the Romans to identify and persecute followers of Christ. Mormons call themselves Latter Day Saints. It is the name Christ gave to original followers of his Church.
    Mitt Romney is a follower of Christ, that's all I need to know for character reference. He will make a great President.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      That's all you need to know? Scary.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Brad

      The entire array of candidates make at least some pretense of being followers Christ. Everyone who would be in authority over us and would make such a claim requires the closest scrutiny. Which Jesus does your man claim to follow and what about the man demonstrates that he is a true follower?

      November 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Kay

      Romney is no follower of Jesus. Jesus was a devout Jew, not a Mormon and not a Christian (aka Paulist, aka idolator.)

      November 9, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Kay, s your church based on a foundation of living apostles and prophets as was Christs's church as Paul directs in Ephesians 2? Is your church founded on the rock of revelation with Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone as Christ directs in Mathew 16:17-18? Do you have the priesthood in your church or do your ministers simply "taketh this honour unto himself" as Paul forbids in Hebrews 5:4? Is your church the true church of Jesus Christ or was it founded on men as Paul forbids in I Corinthians starting in verse 10? If Paul were alive today, which church would he belong to? Obviously, from the preceding verses, not the church of Luther, or Wycliff, or any of the protestant churches. He said himself that he would belong to the Church of Jesus Christ and if he were alive today he would belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-days. It's time to repent and return to the truth. Paul said, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism". I testify to you that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that one true faith and baptism!

      November 9, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  3. lunchbreaker

    Too all the "Christians" bashing Mormons (who belive in Jesus Christ and therefore by definition are Christian) for there ridiculous beliefs, that is how athiests see you.

    November 9, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  4. Dr.K.

    "most say that what matters is simply holding strong religious beliefs, rather than holding particular religious beliefs"

    So, voters have more respect for someone who believes strongly even if the voter sees those beliefs as untrue and wrong, than for someone who does not believe? In other words, what matters is that you are guided by some collection of rituals focused on supernatural magic, regardless of whether or not they are correct. If you are not guided by magic, even false notions of magic, you can't be trusted.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  5. Susan

    What bothers me about the possibility of a Mormon president is the Mormon doctrine that women have a lower status than men. With this being the belief in the church and the family, why would someone raised with these beliefs practice differently in the leadership of our country? Why would any woman (or man) vote for a Mormon after more than a century of fighting for the (almost) equal rights that women have today?

    November 9, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Abinadi

      My wife holds my priesthood because she is my other half and we are one. Women hold many important positions in a ward. The relief society president and her counselors are over all the women in the ward, the primary president and her counselors run the primary, the young womens president and her counselors are over the young women. Women speak in meetings and pray. Relief Society, I believe was the first womens organization and is the largest womens organization in the world today. Utah was the first state to give women the vote. The church has been at the fore-front of womens rights.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Kathy

      Susan, I agree with you. It is a good question to be posed directly to Romney. I would be very interested to see how he addresses the question. Having said that, at this point, the same could be said for certain 'christian' candidates as well. I don't think the faith issue should absolutely dominate however, a complete holistic view of the candidate needs to be considered. Your point is very well taken.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • Courtney

      HI Susan-
      I want to share some information regarding the mormon church and women in the church. I was raised Mormon and in NO way do they undermind women. The woman has just as many positions in the house hold as the man. People have many wrong notions about mormons. A woman has every say that a man does in everything regarding the family, so in no way are they taking back the womens rights movement ideas. They, mormons, follow the teachings of Jesus Christ ( hince the name of the church "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints", so they are christians.
      Hope this helps you understand a little more.

      November 9, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Susan

      I've been married for 35 years, but I do not want to be my husband's "other half" or "be one" with him. I am an individual. I don't want to hold "important positions" as defined by men. I want the right to hold the same positions as men if I so desire. The belief of Mormons that men are superior is a threat to the equality of women.

      November 10, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • Abinadi

      This is so ridiculous. There are dozens of high profile, high ranking Mormons in public office and not one of them has ever downgraded or voted to downgrade women in any way whatsoever nor would they. What is your problem?

      November 10, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • Brian

      Statistically LDS Women are more educated than their Christian counterparts holding more advanced degrees. Only Jewish women rank equally to Mormons.

      November 10, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  6. Kebos

    It's also vitally important the candidate I vote for believes in Santa Claus.

    November 9, 2011 at 6:47 am |
  7. Daniel Joseph Lyons

    This is all just bleach, covering society in grime will get you nowhere.. They need to grobble up and shut their eyes. I think we need to turn our heads to the political system in the UK and copy then, nay, i know this! Those in agreeance, rally at my comment postage!

    Dan xx

    November 9, 2011 at 5:53 am |
  8. AusieSceptic1

    I don't see a problem with an atheist as president, we have an atheist prime minister and the government still functions
    superficially a mormon in the top job should be no real problem except would you really like to have a president who wears secret underwear?

    November 9, 2011 at 3:48 am |
  9. Mr. Widemouth

    Let's do a little background check shall we? http://www.squidoo.com/mormon-church

    November 9, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • Abinadi

      How about Mormon.org?

      November 9, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  10. Amelia

    Mormons believe the prophet Joseph received golden plates from an angel on a hill. They also believe (along with other Christians and Jews) the prophet Moses received stone tablets from a burning bush on a mountain. Instead of worrying about whose religion sounds the craziest, let's start worrying about who will make a good president. This is America! All religions welcome!

    November 9, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • lilly

      THANK YOU!

      November 9, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  11. gerald

    George Washington

    A Prayer for Guidance

    O eternal and everlasting God, I presume to present myself this morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and has given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body and soul....

    Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the gospel; give me repentance from dead works; pardon my wanderings, and direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation; teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments; make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber, but daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life bless my family, friends, and kindred.

    November 8, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • hippypoet

      george washington was a moron.

      November 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Alien Orifice

      Oh really? So says the dog trainer that will never amount to anything. The guy who posts terrible poems, useless, mindless rants, and named it's stupid kid "rynn." Sometimes you just don't make any sense. You can't convince me that you aren't bipolar.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  12. John

    How many of the Milosevic 70 in the cult are black? yea after the 12 super head mormon whites so called apostles

    November 8, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  13. Reality

    Beyond the polls and onto some facts of "life":

    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 6:28 pm |
    • knowledge before action

      Are you serious?!?!

      Where in the world did you get your facts on "life"?

      Do the research (from multiple reputable sources – not a political group, a church group, etc.).

      Oh, who am I kidding – people will go to the end of the earth to find "evidence" that supports their opinion.

      Pro-choice is not pro-abortion... you have the right to chose your beliefs regarding reproductive rights and others deserve the same.

      I am getting really, really tired of those who feel they have the right to force their beliefs on others.

      Our country was founded on freedom of religion.

      No one knows the right one – there is no evidence.

      Religious beliefs should dictate how an individual behaves in their personal life – not dictate to others.

      While I believe in a higher power/energy I don't feel I need to force my opinions/beliefs on others.

      Personally I'd feel a whole lot safer with leaders who don't leave it up to God, etc. – no rapture just death.

      Silly me... I just wasted a part of my life trying to get someone to think.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Reality

      "Facts on Contraceptive Use

      http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_contr_use.html
      January 2008

      "WHO NEEDS CONTRACEPTIVES?

      • 62 million U.S. women (and men?) are in their childbearing years (15–44).[1]

      • 43 million women (and men) of reproductive age, or 7 in 10, are se-xually active and do not want to become pregnant, but could become pregnant if they or their partners fail to use a con-traceptive method.[2]

      • The typical U.S. woman (man?) wants only 2 children. To achieve this goal, she (he?) must use cont-raceptives for roughly 3 decades.[3]

      WHO USES CON-TRACEPTIVES?

      • Virtually all women (98%) aged 15–44 who have ever had int-ercourse have used at least one con-traceptive method.[2](and men?)

      • Overall, 62% of the 62 million women aged 15–44 are currently using one.[2] (and men)

      • 31% of the 62 million women (and men?) do not need a method because they are infertile; are pregnant, postpartum or trying to become pregnant; have never had inte-rcourse; or are not se-xually active.[2]

      • Thus, only 7% of women aged 15–44 are at risk of unwanted pregnancy but are not using con-traceptives.[2] (and men?)

      • Among the 42 million fertile, s-exually active women who do not want to become pregnant, 89% are practicing con-traception.[2] (and men?)

      WHICH METHODS DO WOMEN (men?) USE?

      • 64% of reproductive-age women who practice con-traception use reversible methods, such as oral con-traceptives or condoms. The remaining women rely on female or male sterilization.[2]

      FIRST-YEAR CON-TRACEPTIVE FAILURE RATES

      Percentage of women (men?) experiencing an unintended pregnancy (a few examples)

      Method
      Typical

      Pill (combined) 8.7
      Tubal sterilization 0.7
      Male condom 17.4
      Vasectomy 0.2

      Periodic abstinence 25.3
      Calendar 9.0
      Ovulation Method 3.0
      Sympto-thermal 2.0
      Post-ovulation 1.0

      No method 85.0"

      (Abstinence) 0

      (Masturbation) 0

      More facts about contraceptives from

      guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_contr_use.html

      "CON-TRACEPTIVE METHOD CHOICE

      Cont-raceptive method use among U.S. women who practice con-traception, 2002

      Method No. of users (in 000s) % of users
      Pill 11,661 30.6
      Male condom 6,841 18.0 "

      i.e.
      The pill fails to protect women 8.7% during the first year of use (from the same reference previously shown).

      i.e. 0.087 (failure rate)
      x 62 million (# child bearing women)
      x 0.62 ( % of these women using contraception )
      x 0.306 ( % of these using the pill) =

      1,020,000 unplanned pregnancies
      during the first year of pill use.

      For male condoms (failure rate of 17.4 and 18% use level)

      1,200,000 unplanned pregnancies during the first year of male condom use.

      The Gut-tmacher Inst-itute (same reference) notes also that the perfect use of the pill should result in a 0.3% failure rate
      (35,000 unplanned pregnancies) and for the male condom, a 2% failure rate (138,000 unplanned pregnancies).

      o Conclusion: The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the pill or condoms properly and/or use other methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  14. george of the jungle

    hey don't forget the bulletproof underwear they are required to wear!

    November 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • John

      Hey George, they really are a whacky religion, if you ever lived in s Utah, you would know exactly how much.

      November 8, 2011 at 5:45 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, vile people who were headed straight for perdition.

      November 8, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • GoToCollegeGetDrunkEatChickenFingers

      I've only been to St. George. Who is exactly is this, "Saint" George anyway? I don't have the motivation to look it up.

      November 8, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Abinadi

      The name came form George Albert Smith, an early president of the church and a very kindly man who the saints loved very much.

      November 8, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  15. george of the jungle

    I think Mitt is a creep and it has nothing to do with his religion. The Mormom religion is really off the wall all the secret stuff in the temple and all but his policys and his flip flopping are what bother me more. I guess if you put him up against the liar Cain he looks a little better. He doesn't lie just keeps changing his story.

    November 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  16. John

    Hey Aben, we cant make you have a Black Elder, but we sure can boycott anything your cult stands for including any mormon business. top 82 all white, how does that happen?

    November 8, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • GoToCollegeGetDrunkEatChickenFingers

      Bleach.

      November 8, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  17. lunchbreaker

    I find it funny how many Christians bash Mormans because they find thier beliefs ridiculous. Just because your sacred book is older. How is Paul being "divinely inspired" to write books of the Bible any less rediculous than reading out of a hat. Moses had stone tablets, Joseph Smith had golden plates.

    November 8, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • John

      yea, golden plates & a whole lotta black slaves & lots of wives, again, I am sure Jesus is very, very proud of you for having a religion that started out with yes you can have lots & lots of wives.

      November 8, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • TR6

      @ John: “I am sure Jesus is very, very proud of you for having a religion that started out with yes you can have lots & lots of wives.”

      As I recall, you’ll find a number of big names of the OT had more than 1 wife and were also known for doing servant girls too

      November 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Brian

      Joseph Smith was an abolitionist.

      November 10, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  18. James

    1)Scientology 2)Mormonism 3)Islam Most Phooey Religions

    November 8, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      You forgot Christianity, you bigot.

      November 8, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      I'm an athiest. I think both religions are equally "silly". I don't care what you or your non-existant savior think of me.

      November 8, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Cults.. they are called cults.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  19. LiLaLo

    This is America and not Iran. So I don't care if the president is christian, muslim, jewish, buddhist, hindu, pastafarian or atheist.
    As long as he does a decent job and plays by the rules...

    November 8, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  20. Mike-Bell

    Its hard to understand what the liberal concern would be since Harry Reed is Mormon.
    For the Evangelicals it's hard to understand their claim that Mormons are a cult since each of the Evangelical congregations exist because the Minister has a cult following. Examples are Robert Jefress of Dallas Texas and extreme example had been Jim Jones who lead his follower to kill themselves.
    So I believe the factions to be most concerned about are those that are vitriolic and go out of their way to malign others.

    November 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Brad

      Fred Phelps and the like. But then, he's (hopefully) not running for office.

      November 8, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • warmesTghosT

      Liberals aren't concerned with the fact that he's a mormon – we're resigned to the fact that America is not yet educated enough to elect an open atheist to office. It's the fundamental republican base that has an issue with his particular beliefs. We atheists view all religious people as just a wee bit off kilter.

      My beef with Mittens is that he's a corporate lapdog, a flip-flopping shill and an all around phoney. If he happens to belong to one ridiculous cult rather than another, I say "meh."

      November 9, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
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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.