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. religion

    I think the question ought to be refined so that we know how many registered likely Republicans would refuse to vote for a Morman. If there are even 10 percent, the election is over. Mitt WILL be the nominee. Everyone else has too many problems. I don't like him, and won't vote for him, but he'll be the nominee.

    On a side note, I love to laugh out loud at this issue when Xtians argue over how many angels dance on the head of a pin. I'm reminded of Stevie Wonder's lyrics: "when you believe in things you don't understand then you suffer."

    November 8, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  2. Mormons-R-Cult

    Can't really blame them, it is a cult after all. You have to be pretty stupid to fall for this particular, very bogus, religion which makes it difficult to believe they would make a good leader.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Stephanie

      You don't acquire your belief through a rational thought process but rather as a result of your up-bringing. People believe what their parents believed. This is why religious beliefs are so geographically bounds. You are not a Mormon because your parents were not Mormons. If they were, you most likely be a Mormon as well (> 90% statistically). Intelligence is then what you use to rationalize your previously acquired beliefs and rarely to decide if they are true or not. Read Michael Shermer: "Why people believe weird things?".

      November 8, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Thayer

      I know many ex-Mormons. More than Mormons. These people are generally intelligent, logical people who at one time realized how bogus and cult-like Mormons are.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  3. KC_CA

    Wow. 42% are uneasy. Of course that means that 58% are just fine but that isn't as fun a headline is it?

    November 8, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  4. moderatesense

    Americans have good reason to be sceptical of Mormons. That is a brainwashing cult. I lived in Utah for 3 years and was taken aback at the corruption and all the misinformation that mormons were putting out.

    Just remember: Why was Joseph Smith lynched, the Mountain Meadows massacurre, Why did Brigham Young keep polygamy a secret if it was directed directly from God, mormon engineers ignoring safety parameters which caused the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, Mormon officials bribing the Olympic committe to get the Winter Olympice in Salt Lake City, the Book of Mormon being revised hundreds of times. In my years which I lived in Utah, I have NEVER seen a single Mormon read or quoute the Bible. just the book of mormon.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • claybigsby

      "Americans have good reason to be sceptical of Mormons. That is a brainwashing cult."

      newsflash....most religions are brainwashing cults.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Reload

      Wow, you are whacky. Mountain Meadow happened long after Joseph Smith was murdered. Polygamy was never a secret. And the engineers, really? I'll explain that just because I know. The design worked fine as long as the shuttle was launched within in the design ambient temp range. It was the politicians and NASA management that caused the shuttle to be launched outside of the temp. envelope. The redesign was done just to cover the complete failure of the NASA decision-making process and its bowing to politicians.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Grant

      ‘That is a brainwashing cult’ – Do you have any evidence to support this?
      ‘Why was Joseph Smith lynched’ – you mean the murderous, raping, drunken ‘Christian’ hordes who were outraged by his opposition to slavery?
      ‘the corruption and all the misinformation that mormons were putting out’. Such as?
      ‘the Mountain Meadows massacurre’ – you mean the one that outraged church leaders and led to the conviction of the man responsible?
      ‘Brigham Young keep polygamy a secret’ – and you have evidence of this?
      ‘mormon engineers ignoring safety parameters which caused the Space Shuttle Columbia accident’ – Actually, the mormon engineers opposed the launching because of safety concerns but the ‘christians’ back east rejected their reservations and pushed forward.
      ‘Mormon officials bribing the Olympic committee’ – just to be clear, they were not mormon leaders, but Olympic officials that may have been mormon, But if you are going to go after the mormons here, you need to go after the evangelical, catholic, muslim and other religions officials that were involved in bribery in all past Olympics as well. But as a hypocrite you have no such duty. Cognitive dissonance anyone?
      ‘Book of Mormon being revised hundreds of times’ – call for sources please. The revisions were to errors in the printed addition that differed from the original manuscript.
      ‘Why did if it was directed directly from God, to get the Winter Olympice in Salt Lake City’ – call for sources please.
      ‘I have NEVER seen a single Mormon read or quoute the Bible’ – well, I have been a mormon most of my life and I see mormons quote the bible every Sunday, and currently my teenage children are attending early morning religion classes where they are studying the Old Testament.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  5. Steve

    every time there is a republican front runner the liberal media (CNN) will try anything and everything to make them look bad. good luck trying to find some trash on Romney. Oh I guess you can't find anything maybe bash his religion. I agree with Juan.
    Liberal Hypocrits. You can't hide from that anymore everyone knows.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • CNN

      No, Steve. We're not anti-conservative, generally. We're just out to get you specifically.

      We've got your back door covered too. Now put that tin foil hat back on and stop spending so much time on those p0rn sites.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  6. db

    Do we or do we not have the right to Religeous Freedom in the USA? You can believe in what ever you want to believe as long as you abide by our laws and well, most of our customs.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Mormons-R-Cult

      Absolutely, however, I do not have to vote for people who hold beliefs I flat out know are wrong.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  7. Hugh G. Rection

    Vote Cain.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • dirkk03

      Nah, I'll vote Abel.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  8. rad666

    I live in Mass., voted for Romney for governor and I am one of the lease religious people I know. Romney being Mormon had no effect on his being governor of Massachusetts, except when it came to stem cell research (he did not support it). I will not vote for him for president because he screwed us with HIS healthcare law and I found him to be like most politicians, useless

    November 8, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • tina

      i thought 2 out of 3 ma residents like shape shifter romney's healthcare law? but this one commenter from ma is saying ma got screwed with romney's healthcare law? what are the real polls on romneycare's popularity in ma? how was romneycare wrong for ma? did he trick/fool ma residents into approving his healthcare plan prior to his sgning?

      November 8, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  9. Stephanie

    Mormonism may sound ridiculous to somebody who is not used to it but in all fairness, Christianity also sounds ridiculous to somebody who has never encountered it before. I can only remember the stare of disbelief in the eyes of the people I tried to explain the story of Christianity. Evidently, they were wondering if I was stupid or deluded.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Punisher2000

      In America?

      November 8, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Lou

      People prefer leaders who share their delusions.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Stephanie

      I work in for a high tech company and I hire a lot of people from India and China. When I belonged to a Church (I don't anymore, I woke up finally), I tried to bring some I considered my friends to my church. This is where I got these reactions.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  10. No golden plates, no Nephites...just religious fiction.

    We can't prove Jesus was the son of God, but with the Bible, everything else lines up scientifically and archeologically. Mormonism and the Book of Mormon can be disproven scientifically and archeologically. No credible scientist, linguist, or archeologist outside the LDS community will back it up. It's a hoax, a sham. And that's why a lot of people are uncomfortable with it. And lest we forget polygamy and racism running deep in the roots of Brigham Young’s teachings.

    Remember...God changed his mind about black people in 1978. Ridiculous.

    Mormonism is the product of a 19th century con artist, nothing less and nothing more.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Stephanie

      Really? I can't remember the Egyptians being wiped out by the flood as the flood was being built for one.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Stephanie

      Really? I can't remember the Egyptians being wiped out by the flood as the pyramids was being built for one.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Punisher2000

      I am not a Mormon, but to say that Mormonism is a sham is rather arrogant. It reflects an easy view. I am right, the world is wrong. If Jesus would visit us today, he would go back and tell his Father no one listened to him, cause no one believed who he was.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Lou

      Yeah. The Jesus story is historical all right, mostly a rehashing of the Egyptian myth of Horus. It's just as fraudulent as the Mormon story.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • claybigsby

      "We can't prove Jesus was the son of God, but with the Bible, everything else lines up scientifically and archeologically. "

      please provide citations for this ridiculous statement

      November 8, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Scott

      The entire earth being covered in water 5,000 years ago by a flood (destroying all land-dwelling creatures). The only survivors? A boat of a few people and two of the millions of species of animals we currently have on earth. Yeah, that's obviously totally backed up by science.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  11. Kenny Merriken

    Mormon cult test for Mitt Romney to verify he belongs to a cult. Two questions Yes/No 1) Is Jesus Christ the Son of God? 2) Is Jesus Christ God? Mitt Romney will say "Yes" to the first question and then give a politically correct sidestep answer to the second question. He will either repeat the first question answer or sidestep question number 2) altogether. When he refuses to say the one word answer of "Yes" to question number two, then classify him as a member of the Mormon cult. Study the Book of John.

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

      And what would Obama say, "Mohamad is my spiritual guiding light and a deciple of God."

      November 8, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Stephanie

      And what's wrong with that belief? It is his belief against yours. I am not seeing any clear winner here.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Dave

      Gah, Kenny, I'm sorry but there's a total lack of logic here. You've pulled two questions out of the air, and decided that those two will determine if someone's religion is a cult? And then you've set up a strawman and told us how somebody would answer the questions of your made up test, and then therefore used that to "prove" your point? I'm dizzy!

      November 8, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Lou

      Christ cult, Mormon cult, Jehovah or Mohamed cult, from a distance they're all the same.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • MormonChristian

      Hey, you're pretty good – you can predict what Romney believes and what he will say. Did your "let's-love-everyone" baptist minister teach you this in some special class on "Cults"??

      November 8, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • K Kammeyer

      You are either willfully ignorant, or seriously deceived about Latter-day Saint doctrine. First of all, we believe in all those scriptures in the Bible that state that Jesus Christ is God. In addition, a 5-minute search of LDS scriptural references at lds.org would show you that yes, if Mitt Romney is a practicing Mormon (which I believe he is) then he would most emphatically answer "Yes" to your second question:

      Doctrine and Covenants 18:33
      33 And I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, have spoken it.

      Doctrine and Covenants 66:13
      13 Verily, thus saith the Lord your God, your Redeemer, even Jesus Christ. Amen.

      Mormon 3:21
      21 And also that ye may believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, which ye shall have among you; and also that the Jews, the covenant people of the Lord, shall have other witness besides him whom they saw and heard, that Jesus, whom they slew, was the very Christ and the very God.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • claybigsby

      newsflash kenny....your religion is a cult too.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • tina

      kenny, you have down pat romney's main strategy to win and that is to deflect and sidestep questions in order to be noncommital. when you are noncommital, it means you are a fraudster. it also means you do not and will not tell people the truth, which makes him like obama. unfortunately, voters are onboard with not wanting anyone to speak truth. they feel better to be in denial and not fix any problems. it appears the goal of voters is same as iran and soros and israeli pm – and that is to destroy the us by selecting vile politicians who will screw america and future generations.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Scott

      Yeah, to prove he is in a cult ask him two questions about a being no one can logically or scientifically prove ever existed, and then ask him to tell you about that person's other-wordly lineage and super powers. That'll show 'em that he's crazy! Do you evangelical Christians ever take the time to listen to yourselves talk?

      November 8, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  12. Moha

    Family values – Gingrich
    Womens rights – Herman Cain
    Intellectual Bachmann, Palin
    Universal Healthcare – A Mormon flipflopper
    What a choice, Very hard decision for GOP

    November 8, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Punisher2000

      I guess you will vote for Obama then.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  13. RMK

    Interesting, Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, a Catholic and mostly Democratic state. I seriously doubt whether he tried to convert anybody. The fact that he was Mormon made no difference. I'm not a Mormon. I do believe the candidates who push any religion in their campaigns should not be elected. Voting decisions should be made on competence only not by religious or racial bigotry. This is America, not Saudi Arabia. I think we're losing this concept.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Scott

      RMK, you may be one of the only rational thinking people on this entire forum. Great post!

      November 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  14. db

    What this country really needs if for every memember of the Current Congress, that is both the House and Senate, along iwth the President as well as the bias Supreme Court to resign immediately and a whole new group of 555 untainted individuals with common since and patriotism be put in place. There is no way that any of these new people could do as bad of a job at running our country as the current Congress, President, and Supreme Court has done or in the last 30 years.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  15. Goodstuff

    Organized religion, lawls!

    November 8, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  16. JOHN

    There is a lot of difference between being religious and spiritual. It is unfortunate that someone who is truly spiritually enlightened is not available to be president.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  17. Moha

    Republican nominee race is always a dream come true for Comedy Central.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  18. Kathy

    we vote for the mans abilities not his religion. I pray for intelligent life on this planet. Humans, sheesh. when will you people evolve already, so petty, its ridiculous.

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

      not when his religion dilutes his ability to be a worthwhile president capable of leading our country.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  19. Robert

    For those people bashing GOP candidates remember last election – the democrats had John Edwards, Hilliary Clinton and Denis Kucinich HA! HA! HA!

    November 8, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Just Saying


      It is not clear what point you are trying to make. At least two of the three names you mention refute any argument that you might have been trying to make.

      Hillary Clinton is, unlike either Bachmann or Palin, an intelligent and educated woman. Moreover, she is an intelligent and educated PERSON, and she believes in reason and science. Those facts alone puts her several rungs higher on the "qualified to be President" ladder than any of the GOP wanna-be's.

      Kucinich was never more than a lunatic fringe candidate whose primary value was for laughs. Unlike a number of the many lunatic fringe candidates on the GOP side, there was never any chance that he could have won the nomination.

      John Edwards was, and is, a slimeball. This only proves that slimeballs can be found on both sides of the political divide. But if you look at recent history, there have been a lot more on the GOP side than on the Democrat side.

      Just Saying...

      November 8, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  20. Juan in El Paso

    Why were there not these same type of stories three years ago about Obama and his "religion," if that is what you would actually call the trash Rev. Wright preaches. If the public knew that Obama spent 20 years listening to Rev. Wright and what he preaches I think the same story could have been written. "46% uncomfortable with Obamas' readical, hate mongering, anti-american church." For those of you who disagree just go an listen to his post 9/11 sermon where he says GD America multiple times and says our chickens have come home to rooste. A very telling phrase of ones thoughts about something.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Juan in Stupidville

      Because Obama's "religion" is Christianity so nobody cares. Also maybe you should go back to school and learn spelling and punctuation before posting here. You're obviously a typical wingnut moron with an IQ of 30, but that's why you are republican. Republicans hate education and only care for the rich.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:37 am |
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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.