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. Meofree

    If we have a "Moron" president, does it mean that everybody can marry as many women as we want(legally)?

    November 8, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Melissa

      Mormons haven't practiced polygamy for over 100 years. Thanks for helping to perpetuate a false idea about a church full of nice people. Take your hate elsewhere.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  2. SensibleChristian

    Really? Really!?? There's no reasonable argument that either of the Mormon candidates have a strong enough link to the church for it to become a political issue (especially Jon Huntsman). Did we as a country ever have problems with Catholic presidents trying to make us pledge allegiance to the Pope? That being said an earlier across-the-board (non-religious) survey of the same type said only 25%.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  3. rob

    YES I have a BIGGGG PROBLEM with the Mormans! First of all the head leader of this group is supposed to have a direct commucation with God. And another thing equally important is that they did not allow blacks or people of color in their grop until 1978 when this head leader of theirs supposedly had a revelation from God saying the time has come when you can allow blacks in your group. Way to DOGMATIC and RIGHT WING to run this country P.S Are Democrats allowed to be Morman? Are their any Democrat Mormans?

    November 8, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Sizzle

      Ha ha, that is actually funny. Harry Reid, you may have heard of him as a famous Democrat, is a Mormon. You need to do your research. And you said Blacks weren't allowed into our group until 1978? WHat does that even mean? YOu need to do some more research before spouting off buddy.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Melissa

      Rob – You must be an expert since you can't even spell Mormon. As a Mormon I am sick to death of all the people who keep re-hashing this anti-mormon crap. Grow up and check into who the Mormons are TODAY at mormon.org or lds.org. We donate millions to poor countries in humanitarian aid, we push strong family values, and unlike Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich the men are taught to keep their zippers up. Thanks for listening :).

      November 8, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Not a Mormon (not that there's anything wrong with it)

      Well said Melissa!
      If people don't know anything about the LDS church and Mormons, do some research.
      Or ask a Mormon ... they will explain things truthfully ... and they won't try to "recruit" you.
      Just remember ... You Don't Have to be Mormon ... To Vote for a Mormon.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  4. Big Bob

    A lot of people think the current resident of the White House wasn't born in the US and is an apostate muslim.
    Yet he still got elected. You certainly do vet the candidates with a jauniced eye, no?

    BTW: Harry Reid is a Mormon and we don't seem to hear much about that. Just sayin is all.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • zip

      The people who believe Obama was born in Kenya and is Muslim are too stupid to be relevant.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  5. Jim970

    What a bunch of scare-d-cat, spineless wimps. Afraid because he's Mormon? Grow up. I am not Mormon but I know a fair number and lived for some time in Salt Lake City. They are good people, just like the rest of us. Or like the rest of us should be, that is. As president, what do they think Romney is going to do? Infect them with Mormonism? Unbelievable.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • zip

      The Mormon church is a cult. And luckily, most of us are on to them. Educate yourself and you will get on board.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • rob

      They are a RACIST CULT!

      November 8, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • tallulah13

      I think the problem that many people have is that mormonism like catholicism has a defined human leader who pretty much dictates the laws of his faith. The fact that this leader gets "revelations from god" which can change church beliefs at any moment does make the nature of a mormon candidate's faith a concern.

      If Romney is willing to hold the laws of the nation over the laws of his religion while in office, then I don't see why he wouldn't be a viable candidate. But the question must be asked: Is he an American first, or a mormon.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Sean

      Bachmann, Cain and Perry have all said ‘god’ called them to be president. It’s not just the Mormons that are nuts.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • tallulah13

      I agree Sean, I was simply addressing the particular comment on mormonism. Frankly, I think the Bachmann and Perry types are insane or criminal. Or both.

      November 9, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  6. 2tired2care

    Is one's religion a wise or dumb way to pick a candidate? Who's religion is the least ridiculous?

    November 8, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  7. robCM

    People are not sure about the flip/flop Bishop. I can understand that.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  8. Marv

    I saw the same poll numbers (except against Catholics) in the '60s when John Kennedy ran for president and the again (except for Muslims) in the '08 election when Keith Ellison ran for US Representative from Minnesota.

    Rid politics of the religion nonsense and elect competent people.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • asdf

      competent? Competent people in general don't have such a hard on for power that they would subject themselves and their family to that circus.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  9. Bob

    This country was founded on freedom of religion and individual rights....i personally don't give a hoot...what denomination a individual is as long as he or she is a good honest caring American citizen...I remember JFK, everyone said no one would vote for a Catholic..no they didn't; they voted for JFK ...

    November 8, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  10. Obamajoe

    -------–Plus I'm afraid Mitt will make it law to wear magic underwear and have 3 wives! One wife is plenty, trust me! ====
    OK,,I trust you will welcome that law,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,you little cute liar:)

    November 8, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  11. Ezra

    Mormonism is no crazier than every other religion. It's all crap. My interest in any candidate is inversely proportional to haw many times they invoke their religious beliefs. We need to get past mythology. Zeus, Yahweh, Odin etc. are not going to come to our rescue. It's time we grew up.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • hippypoet

      i completely agree...well on everything execpt -" My interest in any candidate is inversely proportional to haw many times they invoke their religious beliefs." see if a person shows intelligence i try to see past there stupidity... but with nearly everyone being a religious moron and not ever answering any questions with real answers....i don't think i will be a voter for much longer! i need something i can and willingly put my name on...so far this country has been offering less and less every year!

      November 8, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Sean


      November 8, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  12. asdf

    I could care less about his religion. In general Mormons tend to believe some crazy stuff but my problem with them had more to do with them being right wing nuts. Sadly the two Mormon Republican candidates are the only ones not obviously foaming at the mouth bat sh_t crazy this time around.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • asdf

      Still I would vote for Huntsman over Romney and either one over any of the other right wing nutjobs the Republican base is holding up.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • SensibleChristian

      Huntsman is an excellent candidate – too bad the fundamentalists (50% of the GOP these days) don't think he panders enough to them.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  13. Non-Mormon

    I lived in Salt Lake for six years. While not Mormon I was impressed by their values. Very strong family oriented. Willing to help people down on their luck. Careful of their finances. Seems to me these are all traits we need in an elected official.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Obamajoe

      Whatever,,,,,,,,,,,,,,a piece of cake for President Obama,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      November 8, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • zip

      They had the same traits at Jonestown and Waco.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • a minority

      Yes, but thats not what worries me. What worries me is the prothletising of the mormon religion. Until it allows people to just join mormonism it will be a cult in my mind. The fact that they need to sell you on it scares me. I don't want to be sold on a religion. if i want to find out more...i'll use the internet. Furthermore, given this is the faith blog. I DO NOT BELIEVE 2/3 of the country thinks our president should be strongly religiously affiliated. SEPERATION of Church and Pres, please. thank you very much.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  14. Mark

    Mormons are definitely Christians, and their values of family, faith and community service are exactly what we need in the White House. Far better than our current President ("I do not question John McCain's Christian faith, and he does not question my Muslim faith." – 2008. Video available on Youtube), who also sees Jeremiah Wright as a legitimate spiritual inspiration. And for those of you who question 'Romneycare', you need to realize that he was the Governor of Massachusetts, the most liberal state in the country, and MA viewed universal health care as right for itself. Romney simply fulfilled the wishes of MA voters when he signed that legislation. And he knows that one size does not fit all.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • zip

      How's the weather today in Provo?

      November 8, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  15. David, CA

    After watching how mormons lied, bussed in "church" members to spread their bee ess propaganda, and laundered money to get prop 8 on the books in CA I'd be skeptical too.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  16. luckjoe

    Are the 42% of Americans who are somewhat uncomfortable with a Mormon president also uncomfortable with Obama and his Muslim background?

    November 8, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • David, CA

      the meds only work if you take them joe.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  17. 2tired2care

    Picking a candidate based on which religious belief is the least crazy is in and of itself crazy.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  18. Brad

    It's time that people remember that this is NOT a Christian nation, but a nation founded on religious freedom. I don't care what his religion is...but can he or she do a good job.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  19. Chuck

    ".. most say that what matters is simply holding strong religious beliefs, rather than holding particular religious beliefs.."
    So, if he was a scientologist or Jim Jones cult member, then that's ok? These people have strong religious beliefs too. Mormons believe that god is from the planet Kolob, magic underwear will protect you, jesus used to hang out in Missouri. These are crazy beliefs that the next president may hold true. This doesn't bother anyone?

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

      You really need to get your facts straight.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • miscnelson

      It is amazing how uninformed YOU are!

      November 8, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Larry LeSueur

      Good point, Chuck. And all the other candidates belief Johah was swallowed by a whale, Moses magically parted the red sea and Moses got the 10 commandments from a voice in a burning bush. That sure sounds kooky to many of us. Who cares what Romney or any one else beliefs are.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Cody Fire

      You're insane, Chuck.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Tevan

      Yes it does !

      November 8, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Chuck

      So what in my statement is wrong about Mormon's? Everything I mentioned is in the teachings of Joeseph Smith. Maybe you should go look it up. What's insane is that American may about to elect a Mormon into the White House. THAT'S insane.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Chuck

      Hey Eric... go on wikipedia and look up "Temple Garment" and then tell me if I have my facts straight.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Jason

      YES, it bothers me. But hey its faith right, anything goes.....

      November 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  20. Thing55

    Time for the GOP to start selling the notion that it isn't the particular beliefs of a religion that are important, it is the bedrock of religious faith that matters. The indoctrination continues.

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

      'it is the bedrock of religious faith that matters."

      Speak for yourself fella. Not all of us what some fruity nonsense about a man in the clouds shoved down our throats.

      November 8, 2011 at 11:13 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.