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. Moha

    Mormon Flipflopper who supports Universal healthcare – Who would that be?? hmmm

    November 8, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Not you,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      November 8, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  2. Interested48

    Keep your religion out of my government!!!! ANY religion.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      You need to be exported,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      November 8, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • kimsland

      Agreed, with Interested48
      As for other countries, yes the whole damn world needs to know that religion is ridiculous, except of course people like me and Interested48 (and millions of others) who already know the truth – there is NO god.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Obamajoe

      ,,,You are in your deep dream,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      November 8, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  3. capnmike

    Personally, I'm "uneasy" with ANY political leader who runs his life based on lies, fairytales and ANY religion...I'd be far more comfortable with an atheist, but of course Americans would never have the guts to actually elect one.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Godfrey

      Well, not knowingly, anyway. Maybe we can slip one in the back door?

      November 8, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  4. rmax

    MAYBE THE REPUBLICANS NEED TO THINK NOW ABOUT PEEWEE HERMAN AS PRESIDENT. He would be reflective of the current extreme RNC voters.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  5. ObamaJoe

    have fun,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,enjoy the CNN 😀

    November 8, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  6. JiminTX

    Mormons are not Christians. Romney and his magic Underwear will never garner the vote in the deep south.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      No,,, they are a upgrades of Christians ,I guess.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • rmax

      Romney and his magic underwear will fly him to the white house like a magic carpet;) . . . and that will be awesome to see!

      November 8, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Dave

      As a theology, Mormonism is about as Christian as it comes. "Christian" means someone who – drumroll please – believes in Christ and his teachings, i.e. people who try to follow Christ or model their lives after him. That's the core of Mormon theology.

      Are Mormons *evangelical* Christians? Nope. But having differing views from the evangelicals makes them no less Christian than other branches of Christianity, e.g. Catholicism.

      P.S. Telling people they aren't Christian isn't a very Christian thing to do. It's actually pretty offensive and mean-spirited. 🙂

      November 8, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  7. Kate

    65% of what population sector? White, born again Christians? I can, with all good conscious, bet that this poll was not given to a true majority of this country – the increasingly impoverished middle class – which by the way holds no prejudice as to race or religion. I am sickened to the very depths of my being by the religious bigotry in this country. Who cares what you believe. Being a proclaimed Christian has never done anything for the leadership in this country. More often than not, they are the biggest failures when ethics are put to the test. So the born agains do not want a Morman as president? They fear he is part of a cult? Why don't they just look at the man. Look at his professional history and his accomplishments. There is a reason why religious leaders call Christians "sheep". You all get led around by the collar, blind to the bigotry and hate in your own "cults". You are programmed to be afraid of, despise and to admonish all beliefs but your own. Wow. Seems pretty cult like to me. OMG – maybe all religions are cults. Maybe we should try putting an athiest in office.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  8. Tak

    While I agree that a presidential candidate should have strong religious beliefs, I do not favor one religion over another. I am a Roman Catholic, but would be comfortable with a Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu, Protestant, Baptist, or Lutheran president. I am NOT comfortable with evangelicals (or their candidates) who wish to turn the United States into a pseudo-theocracy.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • rmax

      AMEN to that!

      November 8, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  9. RightCoast

    Westboro Baptists = Christians per the standard being applied here, enough said..

    To my fellow Mormons, I say we tell mainstream Christianity to go suck it. You want to be tied to the train wreck that is modern Christianity? Sure our church isn't perfect, but it's better than the mess of dirty politics, scandal, abuse, and hatred going on in the mainstream.

    Oh, I know the LDS Church will never let that happen because then we let the crazies paint us in the 'cult' corner, but it chaps me that we're trying to include ourselves in a club that is anything but christian to us and others.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Jared

      Your religion is not perfect? How can a faith led by a "Profit" be anything but? A faith that until it was outlawed endorsed both polygamy and discrimination (no blacks held priesthood until civil rights movement) not to mention slavery until it was outlawed. Did God change his mind on those things?

      November 8, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Jared

      Speaking of the crazies, tell us about your magic underwear or the serimonial washing of peoples genitalia that goes on behind the temple doors. You may not be Scientology crazy but come on now....there is a reason why you folks keep all of that stuff hush hush and threaten those that divulge these things with decapitation.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  10. Bob

    It's a bad sign for our country that faith in imaginary sky fairies has any bearing on the election of our top leader. The founding fathers would be horrified.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • ThinkForYourself

      Being deists, most of our founding fathers would be unelectable.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  11. JEFFRO

    What's the difference between one person who believes in ghosts and another? Thousands of years ... look how far we've come.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  12. Marty in MA

    I'd rather have a realist anyday, than someone who is a religious delusional of any flavor.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  13. feline123

    The Mormons are an aggressive group and go door to door attempting to convert the residents. They remind me of that group in past decades who used to have tambourines, would chant and dance, and solicit converts at the shopping centers. Was it Rev. Moon?

    November 8, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • D

      I have encountered many Mormons actively out trying to convert people...none struck me as "aggressive"...

      I wasn't interested, and they thanked me for my time and they moved on.

      For reference, my religion Atheist/Agnostic at an approximately 90/10 ratio currently.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  14. ray

    How could anyone who voted for a disicple or the Rev. Wright be uncomfortable with anyone's religious or non-religious orientation???? Barack is starting early on his all out assult on Mitt Romney. What else does he have, his record???

    November 8, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • TheMovieFan

      I thought Obama was a Muslim?

      November 8, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • ObamaJoe

      Obama is the KING of Christian and Muslim on this planet.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  15. Frank

    This is why Rick Perry will get the nod. A cab driver in Chicago old me so.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  16. Robert

    I was somewhat concerned about Mormonism until I attended a funeral service for an Army serviceman killed in Iraq 7 years ago. Very beautiful, patriotic. Romney seems moderate in his political views, but strong leadership experience in gov and business.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • hippypoet

      Romney "seems" moderate in his political views... appearences can be deceiving!

      November 8, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Robert

      Romney has Harvard law + Harvard MBA, CEO of an international business strategy consulting firm, gov of MA a tough state, pulled Olympics out of trouble in Salt Lake. Family man. I voted for Obama but likely for Romney. We need someone who can cross the asle and get RESULTS. National debt will kill us.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Tony

      I don't see home Romney will get results when all he does is flip flop lol, sounds more like we will take one step forward and then one back...

      November 8, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  17. noemi

    I lived around mormons most of my life they are in it for them and who ever follows them and there teachings.they don't care unless u r mormon pay your 10 percent to them if u don't pay they well come and take it and they don't care if u r left out in the st. As long as they get there money.If america votes this CULT member get in we well open the gates of hell r we prepared ? No , I will not vote for him or the other one I will vote for a dem. It would be strange to see 7 wives @ the white house I can't begin to see that picture and I don't think that real america is either.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Jason

      For living around Mormons you sure don't know much about them.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • dan

      Go back to school and learn how to spell and construct a sentence – maybe folks will take you more seriously.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  18. Jim Bean

    I don't have a problem with this, I think Tom Cruise or John Travolta would make great presidents.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • hippypoet

      nahhhhh, johnny dep!

      November 8, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  19. JoeT

    Wondering of those 42%, how many were republicans, democrats, and independents.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  20. Naomi

    Wow! It seems the confliction has been found but I haven't seen one whom offered a legit solution. To find something to criticize is easy and simple minded and more over, without counterparting it with what you think should be encouraged, the debate has become nothing but useless chatter. I think its important our president be one of noble character and humble heart. Ofcourse a christian would want a christian president as would an atheist would want an atheist president. But from either angle, the people should check their own agenda, values, and morals before debating or voting whom should be president merely by that president's 'claimed' religious status.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:16 am |
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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.