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. Dan G

    Nothing is more dangerous than religon. It should be kept out of government. All a candidate need say is, his or her religon will be put on hold, if they serve as a public servant.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Stephanie


      November 8, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • bauchdruse

      No I disagree. This country was founded on teh bases of God the Father and Jesus his one and only son. Amen. Leave it at that . No denominational warfare please. Babtist, Methodists and whatever denomination you can have your battels outside teh USA , go to teh moon and find oput which denomination has teh key to heaven. Nobody does and eveer will. It is God teh Father and his one and only Son, Jesus of Nazaret. Amen. It cannot be any simpler.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • bauchdruse

      It is really very simple. God created the world and the people on or in it. If you do not beliefe this then I feel very sorry for you. Then God gave us only 10 Commandments, yes only ten. And what do we do, we turn this simple message into a global war.
      Islam comes from God too, but the difference is that it comes from the one who betrayed God or lets say the black sheep. And this guy did not adhere to teh 10 commandments. There is only God teh father and God the son and of course teh Holy Spirit mosat importantly.
      God was not a Methodist, a Baptist, an Apostolic etc. .... God did not come up with this denominational crap. We the humans managed to screw up the basic plan God gave us. The Pope and all Katholics included.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Jason

      Creating the world is SIMPLE? You scare me...

      November 8, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  2. JDP

    42% Have forgotten about the concept of religious liberty, one of the cornerstones of our great nation. Why in this "enlightened" age are 42% so tainted by bigotry? It has nothing to do with whether or not the Mormon religion is true, but if Romney is fit to govern. Among current politicians, I find it refreshing to have someone who has deeply help morals and convictions, even if I don't fully agree with them. In fact, I think the Mormon church is an excellent training ground for leadership.

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

      I object to that. I don't think indoctrination makes for good training grounds. Quite the contrary actually.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  3. Realist

    It's alarming to me, and actually quite scary, that people in this day and age not only believe in god, but that such belief affects the entire decision making process. History has shown that the weak-mindedness needed to believe in god, and the subsequent over-powering need to prove "my god is better than yours", is humanity's real foe. Thus, I too am uncomfortable with a Mormon President.. or a Christian.. or a Muslim or a .. Religon is sanctioned insanity.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  4. Nacho1

    If you don't like Mormons.......why don't you hire an ATHEIST for President? You already hired a Muslim! What the heck.....religion is SO IMPORTANT to some fatheads!

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

      According to a survey, the least trusted minority is that group of people who happen not to believe in God or gods. In other words, better be deluded than rational...

      November 8, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  5. round raven

    I guess the thing that is so bizarre to me in this situation is the inability for people to see the inaccuracies in all religions.
    Don't disparage my use of the term religion with faith – to me they are far different. My point is directed at organized religion and the massive amounts of story telling that go on to direct human behavior. Some is for positive reasons and others are not.
    Why? Were we all sheep in another life 🙂
    Anyway, I'm for our present President. I think he deserves and has worked for another term in office. I could care less about any of the Republican candidates because I don't believe they represent all of the people.
    I guess that is really the root to this whole commentary.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  6. What Mormons Really Believe

    What Mormons Really Believe – look up this hilarious belief on YouTube


    November 8, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Nacho1

      I am a Catholic and I recognize them as Christian. I am assuming you are an Atheist or Agnostic with his or her head up their rear end.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  7. moderatesense

    To me and many other voters, it always seems like there is never a perfect politician running for office. But being Mormon is a huge disqualifying factor. Usually religions doesn't matter since we have freedom of religion. Look into this cult and everything that it has done. It is a self-serving brainwashing cult. Of course there are many people who are Mormon and nice people. Look at the whole picture.

    Besides all of this, Mitt Romney has flip flopped on every issue, attacks political policies that he once supported and stirs the pot to try to fire up his supporters. When he says Pres. Obamas policies have failed, remember that when he took office the economy was in a death spiral and now the economy is moving back up, if only at a snail pace.

    Remember, Mitt Romney is a liberal. He supports Abortion, Gun control, the bail outs and Universal health care. Look at his past and present TV interviews on YouTube.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Daniel

      And you are an uninformed idiot. Before telling other people to look into a religion, look into it yourself. Because you obviously haven't.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  8. Dave

    For everyone's God's sake - move on to other stories CNN.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  9. zip

    Not only will I not vote for a Mormon, I believe the United States should invade Utah and restore order.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • bauchdruse

      It is being said that Mormens are not Christians? I am not sure and I cannot say yes or now to this. However, the Mormons are a sect and that is proven. They are very secretive in what they do and that is unacceptable for a President to be a member. Rommeny should just change denomination and join a Congregational Church which is serving Christ and God teh Father. That is all it takes and he'll be the next Presidnet for sure. This Mormon stuff is for teh birds, 7 wifes and 100 kidds ? comon now tyhat is living in sin and the Morms know it.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  10. Code

    Why does anyone assume that people tell the truth to people conducting surveys? When I get a really dumb question like that, I just try to find the most outrageous lies with which to impale them. What is remarkable is that so many of our people are willing to be forthcoming about negatively we view those these religious fanatics.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  11. jon

    We're worried that he might find the Smith's gold tablets under a fence post.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Code

      Buried near Fargo, ND.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  12. mark

    What is the difference some other bible beater . all religion ought to be banned from life . bunch of hypocrites

    November 8, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • jon

      Lazy thinking. You can't figure out which is which so it's easier to take the easy way out.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  13. Greg

    Personally I willl NEVER vote for a Mormon or a Muslim...period!

    November 8, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Dave

      LOL, why? Just 'cuz?

      November 8, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • just another Greg

      ... that's like not voting for someone because they are named Greg ...

      November 8, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  14. Jay

    The fact that such a sizeable percentage of the electorate regards a candidate's religious beliefs as significant show just how backward the US still is. Lots of progress to go here.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Greg

      Religion often trumps a persons logical thinking process and in fact drives their decision process. Creation versus evolution is proof of such religious turmoil. Therefore religion is a key factor in any candiates portfolio.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  15. Anne

    So, there were many who thought that if John Kennedy was elected, the Pope would run the country. What is making people uncomforbable about Mormonism? That there will be a bunch of First Wives?? It is very scarey the place religion is taking in this election, and the rigid, judgemental thinking related to whose religion is best, and who knows what God wants, and whose book has the truth. We should be evaluating these candidates on their intelligence, judgement, experience, and ability to connect with all people. A president will have to deal with the leaders in the rest of the world, the majority who are not Christian.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  16. DH in New York

    Probably half of that 42% wouldn't vote for any person who publicly expresses their Christian faith.
    So the net level of LDS skepticism (or uncomfortableness) is probably around 20%?
    It's mostly about ignorance, many people in the U.S. know very few or any Mormans. And they're not going to go out of their way to meet any Mormons.
    Not being a Mormon, but having grown up among Mormans (school, sports, dating, social functions), I find it amazing that anyone would rule out a person based on religion rather than leadership skills and policy viewpoints. There are plenty of reasons not to vote for any Presidental candidate – Obama included – but citing religion seems myopic.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  17. Tex71

    Watching ultraconservative fundamentalist Republicans' faces as they try to bring themselves to vote for Mitt the Magic Mormon (with his history of por-choice and universal health care) = comedy event of the decade!

    November 8, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  18. angryoldguy

    There are a large number of ignorant, bigoted remarks here. No. I won't call you out by name, you know who you are and besides, it would not change any of your thinking anyway, so there's no point. Now days, politics is all about perceptions, not facts. People running currently for POTUS do nothing more than say "I'm better than the other one". They seldom give anything other than the most simple fact-free pseudo-answers to any question posed to them. Mostly, they peddle hate, fear & bigotry. America will sink to a new low in 2012 in what is shaping up to be a vile & disgusting campaign season devoid of any real answers or ideas. I fear for the future of my country.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • hippypoet

      so lets not vote for any of them, leave the electoral college nothing to make the last call and then do the elections over again but with rules agreed on by the citizens!

      November 8, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  19. Southerner01

    I'm more comfortable with the idea of a Mormon as president than a president who worships under reverend Jeremiah Wright's version of Christianity..

    November 8, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Tex71

      People like you hated Jesus too, for the same reasons.

      November 8, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Janine from TX

      Where's your pointy hat?

      November 8, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • JDinHouston

      Couldn't agree more! I am much more frightened by Rick Perry and his belief that God has called him to run for President and that he is so connected to the fundamentalist movement. Do we really want religious nuts in control of the country? Listen to the fundamentalists, their religion is based first on hate, then on power and wealth – very scary.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  20. Kerry

    Separation of church and state are always a concern when religious fervor is in the equation. We stress this to other countries, the Muslim world in specific, yet look at the GOP candidates. The door swings both ways. Christan's can go overboard as well. When it comes time to make a decision between the two, which way will they swing?

    November 8, 2011 at 10:48 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.