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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. Patricia D

    I wouldn't vote for Romney for any reason. I especially don't want to be governed by anyone who wears religion on their sleeve. That goes especially for Perry. I like Obama and want to keep him in. All the other candidates have glaring faults and look like goofballs compared to Obama.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  2. Matt

    Something tells me America will be better off with a Mormon than the current Muslim we have right now. He may claim otherwise, but he is destroying this country like he is a member of the Taliban.

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

      Still jerkin' off to Fox Fake News, huh??

      November 8, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • J.W

      What makes you think he is a Muslim?

      November 8, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • tallulah13

      President Obama is black and has a name that sounds foreign. That's all guys like Matt need to be convinced by the lies put forward by President Obama's political enemies.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  3. Toby

    I'm uneasy whenever a candidate's religion even comes up. I don't give a rats @$$ what you do in your own private time...leave it out of the discussion for President. We have so many bigger problems in this country than to care about what these people do on Sundays or when they can and can't eat meat or rub carbon on their forehead. Leave it alone.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  4. BuckeyeJim

    The First Amendment prevents Congress from establishing a religion, it is the cornerstone of our freedoms.
    Only Congress. The President could do it by decree and the First Amendment would prevent Congress from overriding it.
    Just think polygamy as a new perk for the ruling class.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  5. right

    just go ahead and make obama the dictator, all of you people are morons, afraid that you will be called racists, go ahead vote that Blk "A" hole back in so he can finish his destruction, but it will be a cold day in hell before I ever call obama my president or anything with respect, he can talk to the hand.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Patricia D

      Gee, it sucks to be you right now. Obama's going to be voted for another term.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • zip

      Like it or not, he is your president. And probably will be again. And the fact that you hate that makes me laugh out loud.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Collin

      Wow – lookks like someone has some serious issues they need to work out.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  6. zip

    Mitt Romney is the worse thing that can happen to the Mormon church. Why? Because when people really start to explore the Mormon faith, it chills the bone. Read this book. The Mormon Murders. You will demand the United States revoke statehood for Utah.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Lou

      Yeah, and read about the Inquisition. Christianity has tortured and murdered more people than any other religion.

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

      And yet… it would still pale in comparison to the violence committed by Christianity as a hole.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • K Kammeyer

      You might as well read Zane Grey's "Riders of the Purple Sage" while you're at it, if you believe that kind of pulp journalism. Or you can just wander on over to lds.org or mormon.org and get the STRAIGHT story.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  7. nytw

    Mormons don't believe in the true God. They believe in the same false god that muslims, catholics, baptists, methodists, jews, presbyterians, etc. believe in.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • claybigsby

      hahahahaha so youre saying christianity is the one true religion? PROVE IT, without citing the bible.

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

      Catholics, Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians ARE Christian.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  8. rob

    The Mormon cult is a repulsive, immoral, disgusting, bigoted organization that spreads hate against others. And Mormon beliefs are laughable. And if they can spend tens of millions of dollars on hate campaigns, why can't they pay taxes? Why are taxpayers subsidizing governments services to this pathetic, faux "religion?" The sooner this cult is brought down, the better off the country will be.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Sean

      It’ Christianity, you expected something else?

      November 8, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Collin

      Ummm – you just summed up most of organized religion, not just Mormons.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Eric

      It sounds like you need to crawl into a hole somewhere. Mormons are good people.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  9. fred

    100 plus stories teshing Herman Cain in 1 week now CNN moves right over to trashing Mormons.
    Obamas #1 campaign headquarters is in Atlanta at CNN.

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

      Exactly.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • CaliforniaBC

      It's reporting on a survey. HOW is this bashing Mormons???????????

      November 8, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • zip

      God, you're stupid

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

      um who cares?

      November 8, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  10. Ben James

    Why would anyone worry about a guy that wants to be leader of the most powerful nation (save China) on the planet and believes a weird fairy tale about Jesus Christ coming to America to preach to the native peoples and golden tablets that can only be read with special glasses that all then conveniently disappear. Fine for the pizza delivery guy but not for the leader of our nation!

    November 8, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  11. rmax

    I will vote to somebody who has CHARACTER, COMPETENCE AND LEADERSHIP regardless of religion. DON'T WASTE AMERICA . . . . should be a movement!

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

      This would be my statement also. Religious radicals (and they come in all sizes and colors) are what brought us 9/11. Christians used to burn people at the stake. ALL unacceptable. Religion is fine, so is witchcraft or magic – each to his or her own, but when a government becomes infected with that belief disease then bad things happen.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  12. george S

    The issue for me is not about Romney's religious beliefs, it more my belief Romney will say and do anything to become President.

    Simply...as Billy Joel once said in a song...."it's a matter of trust"....I simply don't trust Romney.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  13. steve

    "two-thirds of voters (67%) said it is either very important or somewhat important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs." and the right wing has issues with muslim's in the middle east. we will forever be haunted by the myths of religion, a true curse on mankind.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  14. tallulah13

    I have been called to be polled for a number of things, but am usually disqualified because I work for a newspaper. It makes me wonder what criterion is set for whose opinion matters and whose doesn't in these polls. My job has no effect on my personal opinions.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  15. dialogue2

    People were skeptical about JFK and Catholicism too, but it turned out that he could lead without the Pope’s input. Mitt has shown the same leadership while running Massachusetts. My concern is not his religion, but whether anyone (all Republican candidates and President Obama) has the ability to LEAD this country out of financial woes.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  16. Collin

    That is somewhat promising – it hopefully means that 58% don't really care – and rightfully so, with that little thing called separation of church and state.

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

      Ooops – I qouoted the wrong statistic. Never mind – 2/3 claim it is important. Theocracy – here we come!

      November 8, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  17. bob

    Just waitin' to get one of them 13 year-old "spiritual wives".

    November 8, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  18. Joe

    Just take a visit to SLC and tell me you aren't a little uncomfortable with the Mormon way of life. Nice people but I always get that brainwashed feel from them. A little too extreme for my tatses. Plus I'm afraid Mitt will make it law to wear magic underwear and have 3 wives! One wife is plenty, trust me! (j/k but not really)

    November 8, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  19. opinion0731

    Reading these comments makes me sad. Too many comments are just hate speech. I can't read two comments in row with out someone ridiculing someones elses cherished beliefs. Every commenter is trying to one up each other. If one commenter throws out a zinger then another has to follow up with an even stronger Jab. Is civil discourse, and respecting another persons beliefs truly dead in this world. I rarely read the comments anymore because it is just depresses me. I just hope there are others out there that think we need to respect each other refrain from being hurtful. Please let me know if you have any questions.

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

      ... and most of the things people are writing about the LDS church are either untrue or distorted. Really, go to lds.org and read a little about the core beliefs of the Mormon church. It might do you some good.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  20. Cybersport

    This whole subject is very troubling to me, as someone who considers myself a non-denominational Christian.

    There is a lot of bigotry on this board.

    Unless a candidate says something like I'm a Christian (or Mormon, or Jew) first, then their religious beliefs should be irrelevant. I am neither a Mormon or a Republican, but neitehr of those facts will keep me from voting for Mr. Romney if I so choose,

    If you say I won't vote for him because he is a Mormon, you are a bigot

    November 8, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Ben James

      Why would anyone worry about a guy that wants to be leader of the most powerful nation (save China) on the planet and believes a weird fairy tale about Jesus Christ coming to America to preach to the native peoples and golden tablets that can only be read with special glasses that all then conveniently disappear. Fine for the pizza delivery guy but not for the leader of our nation!

      November 8, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • 2tired2care

      Would you vote for a Scientologist?

      November 8, 2011 at 11:11 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.