Does a candidates' faith matter? Answer hinges largely on race
October 4th, 2012
02:24 PM ET

Does a candidates' faith matter? Answer hinges largely on race

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – A survey released Thursday shows striking racial and religious divides over the role of religion in presidential politics.

More black and Hispanic millennials – ages 18 to 25 – said that it was important that a presidential candidate hold religious beliefs than white millennials, according to survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

Nearly 70% of black and 57% of Hispanic millennials indicated that religious beliefs were important, while white young millennials with this belief were in the minority. Only 44% said it was important, while 53% said it wasn’t important.

“There are striking differences along racial lines about the role of faith in the lives of presidential candidates,” Dr. Thomas Banchoff, director of the Berkley Center, said in a release about the poll. “Strong majorities of black and Hispanic younger millennials say it is important for presidential candidates to have strong religious beliefs, while a majority of white younger millennials disagree.”

Overall, there was a near  equal divide among all millennials – with 49% saying religious beliefs among presidential candidates is important and 48% saying the opposite.

The poll also shows that a desire for a candidate with strong religious values benefits Romney, not Obama.

The poll asked millennials whether certain traits – like honesty, trustworthiness and leadership – fit Romney or Obama more. The president did particularly well in all these traits, except for one – “has strong religious beliefs.”

“The majority of millennials said that that trait went to Romney,” said Dan Cox, research director for the polling firm. According to the poll, 54% said that trait best described Romney, while 32% selected Obama.

Even in that question, though, there was a racial divide. Of black young millennials, 69% said “has strong religious beliefs” described Obama, while 22% selected Romney.

Religion has played a small but noticeable role in the current presidential showdown between Obama, a Christian, and Romney, a Mormon. Romney has used religion as a dividing issue with Obama, challenging the president on issues of religious freedom, contraception and the role of religion in American life.

The poll also finds that a group once thought to be politically up for grabs – white evangelical Protestants – are decidedly Republican. “Eight-in-ten (80 percent) white evangelical Protestant younger Millennial voters… favor Romney,” reads the poll.

This statistic bucks both conventional wisdom and the hopes of some Democratic operatives who felt that younger evangelicals would be more likely to support Democrats because of their age. Earlier this year, in a conference call with reporters, faith advisers to the Democratic National Committee indicated that they hoped to make gains in this demographics of voters.

While Romney also has a slim majority in white mainline Protestant young millennials, Obama maintains a lead in younger Catholics, religiously unaffiliated voters and minority Protestant voters.

These demographics may prove important in November’s election because these religious voters – particularly the millennials – are excited to vote. Two-thirds (66%) of these young millennials are registered to vote, according to the survey, and half those registered stating that “are absolutely certain they will vote in 2012.”

“One of the most striking findings of the survey is the impact of parental example on younger millennial voter engagement and voting preferences,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “Younger millennials whose parents brought them to the voting booth as children are significantly more likely to be registered to vote, and younger millennials who have two parents supporting the same presidential candidate are closely following the vote choices of their parents.”

The poll of 1,214 adults aged 18 to 25 was conducted online between August 28 and September 10. The margin of error for the entire poll is 4.3 percentage points.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Polls • Race

soundoff (243 Responses)
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    January 8, 2014 at 1:37 pm |
  2. Leif

    A candidate's ability to maintain a moral compas while thinking rationally matters.

    December 13, 2012 at 7:31 am |
  3. Heraldo

    I love this post. I hear all the time from people how being in a reiisaonthlp and living with that person isn't a good idea because we're so young and it's a huge commitment. I have to disagree. Sure, compared to others, I'm still young. I still have learning and growing to do. But I committed to a four year education (and paying for that education), I'm going to commit to a job (and thus to a city) so I can commit to a huge amount of debt and a new city, but I can't commit to another person? It's a little silly.Love the post. People should grow up, take risks, and accept responsibility.

    November 9, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • Leif

      Define "reiisaonthlp"

      December 13, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  4. Vicky

    I think, that the only reason for American"s nation sinking down today is people's arogancy. That is why they make a wrong choices. Mormons should exist only in the closet, same way like gays and lesbians, but with the rights to live with their own believes. We will never be strong unless we are united, but not devided. This includes the religion believes.

    October 17, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Leif

      You have been smoking too much unregulated hemp.

      December 13, 2012 at 7:33 am |
  5. Gary

    I cant vote for a Mormon they wrote ther own bible and follow a false prophet

    October 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Bethzy

      Thanks for feedback. I think a lot of Boomers are syptimhetac to the situation 20somethings are in right now. The article I mentioned, OWS: Why Boomers Don't Understand the Protests is written by a syptimhetac Boomer.

      November 8, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Leif

      Every prophet is false.

      December 13, 2012 at 7:30 am |
  6. Istol

    I think that a younger America would care. However times have changed and we no longer are a "Christian Nation". We now have rules of tolerance and have to make sure everything is politically correct. Since we no longer can call right right and wrong wrong for fear of it being deemed Politically Incorrect then we lost our right to make this a religious political race.

    October 5, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Bob

      America was not a Christian nation from inception. It has only been so in the sense that extreme Christian wingnuts pushed their dogma on the rest of us, but the great pushback against your idiocy is under way. Get used to it, as we expose the nonsense of your Christian fairy tales on an increasing and ongoing basis.

      And go read "Letter To A Christian Nation" by Sam Harris. It speaks in detail about the problems with your claims and your pathetic sky fairy stories.

      October 8, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • brad

      America has never been a Christian nation. In fact Thomas Paine one of our founding fathers wrote in the treaty of tripoli "As the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion"

      October 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Leif

      Wrong, Bob.

      December 13, 2012 at 7:43 am |
    • Leif

      And, Bob, speaking as an atheist, I prefer to live in a Christian world...imperfect as it may be. It is far tastier than any alternative I have encountered.

      December 13, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Leif

      ANd who remembers Thomas Paine?

      December 13, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  7. Kebos

    I call into question the judgment of any leader that believes in a superior being but even moreso anyone who is a member of the Mormon church. Extremely poor judgment and character.

    October 5, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • The Mockingjay

      Since atheists have never contributed anything of value to the world, but only communism and destruction, I call in to question your judgement!

      October 6, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • The Mockingjay

      Atheists are unimaginative and uninspired. The only way the communist scientists were able to keep up during the cold war was to steal the ideas from the west. They can contribute no original ideas. Your posts on this website are a good example; only gloom and negativity. You call good things bad and bad things good! If our nation converts to atheism, all progress will stop!

      October 6, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Mockingjay, were you born with delusions like this or have you been drinking?

      October 6, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Huebert


      The computer you are using was invented by Allen Turing. A ho.mose.xual and an atheist.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • truth be told

      MrJay you are a breath of fresh air !

      October 6, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Did you fart, TuBeTop?

      October 6, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • The Mockingjay

      If our nation converts to atheism, all progress will stop and we will become a backward, 3rd rate society like the rest of the non-christian world!

      October 6, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nonsens. Switzerland is a country that is extremely successful. Its citizens are largely unbelievers. Norway has the highest "happiness index" in the world and most Norwegians are not religious.

      You really are an ignorant fool.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Edit: 'nonsense'.

      By the way, bonehead, how would a nation whose Consti tution guarantees freedom to worship "convert" to atheism?

      Did you get your GED off the back of a Cheerios box?

      October 6, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • The Mockingjay

      Ah, tommy, you are such a clever little devil, but your co mments prove what I said. You can't say anything positive, can you?

      October 6, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • The Mockingjay

      16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather gra pes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
      17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. (New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 7)

      October 6, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • What???

      Yea, don't is just burns your butt to hear Prez Bro end his speeches with a heart felt "God Bless America"? You just want to jump on that podium and slap the color off that ignorant bl**k S O B! Don't you!

      October 7, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • The Mockingjay

      What?, profanity is the speech of ignorant, uncivilized aborigines in Brazil. You should be ashamed and embarrassed!

      October 8, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • kyphi

      The angel Moroni (if there ever was one) is a deceiver. His name translates as "foolish".

      October 9, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  8. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:


    Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

    "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As does BO and his family)

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    October 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • kyphi

      Don't forget the planet Kolob, the garden of eden is in Missouri, belief in multiple gods,and the mormon prophecy that a mormon leader will bring about armegeddon.

      October 9, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  9. Atheism is the natural state of all living things

    To believe in a religion, you have to be taught about it and indoctrinated.

    October 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • truth be told

      All children come direct from the throne of God and retain an inner knowledge of God.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Prove it, you moron.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • truth be told

      Truth is, only a moron rejects Truth and Tom proves it.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Here, fishy, fishy, fishy!

      October 6, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The witless wonder blurts its stupidity again. Whenever the TubeTop is asked for proof of a claim, it calls everyone who doesn't accept his say-so a "moron."

      Poor little dolt.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • truth be told

      You are the proof.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • truth be trolled

      "Truth is, only a moron rejects Truth and Tom proves it."

      I think I smell a disgruntled ex Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. "writer"!

      October 6, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • truth be told

      Hi tom

      October 6, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm the proof that children come directly "from the throne of God"?

      Drinking vodka this early in the day is not good for you, TubeTop.

      October 6, 2012 at 10:57 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.