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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)
  1. usa

    @Doc What is your evidence of that? The American people have literally seen the hateful bigotry from J. Wright on video. That kind of hatred doesn't belong anywhere, let alone in a church from a pulpit.

    October 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Mitt Romney was born in 1947 and is a lifelong Mormon.
      The year he was born, the Mormon "Prophet" and group of 12 leaders had this to say to Dr. Lowry Nelson, a Mormon who questioned the church's blatantly racist doctrines:
      "From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith even until now, it is has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Neg.roes are not ent.itled to the full blessings of the Gospel.
      "Furthermore your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Neg.ro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient partiarchs till now. God's rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogamous."
      – George Albert Smith J. Reuben Clark, Jr. David O. McKay

      This racism was still being taught by the LDS by the time Mitt Romney was an adult.
      "Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions impose on them during mortality are known to us as the ne.gr.oes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God, and his murder of Able being a black skin. . . . Noah's son married Egyptus, a descendant of Cain, thus preserving the ne.gro lineage through the flood. . . . the neg.ro are not equal with other races . . . . " (Mormon Doctrine, 527-28; 1966 orig. ed.)

      October 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • sam

      Oh get over it – some religious nut makes one comment years and years ago, and suddenly Obama believes all the same stuff that guy does? Move on to something relevant, that wasn't already hashed out in 2008.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • David Larimer

      There's been hate spewed by all religions. They all bash each other and stir up division in our culture. None of them are going away anytime soon (too bad), so they just have to mind their own businesses, so we're not at each other's throats all the time.

      It's not just J. Wright, but the Catholics, the Mormons and all the Evangelical sects. Keep it out of public life.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • usa

      Did you "copy and paste" this Mormon doctrine? That is not proof of anything that Mitt Romney and his family believe. And to the others – J. Wright was a huge part of and influence on Obama's life – something to seriously consider – not something to "hash out." And I don't agree that every religion has hatred in it. They may have firm beliefs, but not hatred.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • David Larimer

      Every religion has "firm beliefs" that others find hateful. And every religion has fanatic adherents who use those beliefs to cause grief in society. One man's firm belief is another man's hate. Either we live together in tolerance or we fight each other over whose belief rules. Which one do you prefer?

      October 4, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • sam

      @usa – seriously?? Wright's now got a bigger influence on Obama than Romney's entire religion does on him? Are you actually going to pretend your double standard is valid? Please don't vote. Ever. At all.

      October 4, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @David

      I could care less who people "hate" according to their stpid religions. Once they try to codify that in law, or act on it in another way that would harm people, that's when everyone has a moral obligation (if they resemble even a decent human being) to fight against that hate.

      October 4, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @USA
      So your argument is that Romney isn't a racist despite the sermons he undoubtedly heard throughout his religious life, and yet Obama is full of hate becuase of the sermons he heard throughout his reilgious life?

      October 5, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  2. Honey Badger Dont Care

    The whole basis for this article is ridiculous. Most black and Hispanics are huge Obama supporters. Seems like religion isn't everything.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • The Archangel Sniffy Bob, Platypus of God

      Didn't another poll find that 74% of Hispanics support Obama?

      October 4, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  3. Atheist Hunter

    Mormons are not Christian! They should be shipped to the Middle East!

    October 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  4. Atheist Hunter

    Ok, I admit I'm a retard. Sorry!

    October 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  5. Honey Badger Dont Care

    Romney just spent a lot of time memorizing his lies, I mean lines, before the debate.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  6. David Larimer

    A candidate's religion definitely plays a role with me. I don't care what it is, but I don't want to see it or hear about it.

    I want a candidate who keeps his/her religion out of public life and stands for strict separation of church and state.

    The only way we will ever be able to live which each other in this awesomely diverse America is for everyone to keep their religion to themselves and out of public life. Live and let live. But the government should set the example.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  7. usa

    An individual's moral compass is crucial to their governing and leadership. It has always been very disturbing to know that Obama was indoctrinated for many years in a church where Jeremiah Wright spewed hateful, bigoted sermons. It was all about hatred for white people and America. He is the most divisive president in history.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      And Romney was indoctrinated in a religion full of hate for black people.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • sam

      Wright being a nutter means nothing. Romney's entire religion requiring he be a nutter is different.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  8. Atheist Hunter

    Neither candidate is Christian, however Romney has better moral values.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Nigel P

      Well, that's a pretty lame attempt at trolling, I must say.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      No true Scotsman fallacy.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Mormon Magical Underwear

      Step right up folks,step right up! At Romneys next campaign stop he is giving out some free gooddies!! First you will recieve a Free pair of Mormon Magical Underwear that ROmney and other cultists believe have magical powers that protect you from evil,and only the most devout shall never peel them off,not even to shower....Then you will recieve a picture of their Messiah Joesoph Smith the founder of the cult religion,who was a polygamist,conman,murderer and molester.Then you recieve the Book of Mormon which the Mormon cultists worship over the bible and this was the book Joesph Smith himself wrote to help control and brainwash his followers.You will also recieve the location of the planet Kolob in outer space where the cultists believe their god and Joesph Smith live,and when you die you will fly their in your magical underwear to be a god along with Smith on kolob! You will also recieve the sacred teaching on how all dark skinned people are the products of evil......Yes this is what ROmeny believes......He is no christian,he is a cultist weirdo who should be jailed for what his religion has done to women and children brainwashing them and making them robot slaves,also teaching bigotry and hate..........I am a conservative christian Repub and will not support the skidmarked magical underwear cult bishop ROmney!.........

      October 4, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      What is Obama if he isn't christian?

      October 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  9. therealpeace2all

    So... why is it that the non-whites, in general, feel more so the need to have religious beliefs play an important role in a President or politics ?

    Any answers ?

    Peace...

    October 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Atheist Hunter

      Because they have had their share of persecution and they know it ain't fun!

      October 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Nigel P

      @therealpeace2all
      For the best answers, you should go directly to the source. Yes, I am suggesting that you talk to an actual "black" person. lol

      If that is too hard to do, then our guesses will have to do. I am guessing that it is because most people don't know squat about our First Amendment and cannot reason their way out of a paper bag. But the disparity could be caused by differences in culture alone, since the socio-cultural matrix experienced by many minorities in the USA includes a strongly-integrated religious aspect that is often self-defeating, such as African-Americans worshiping a god that approves of slavery while expecting "liberation" from that god, and many Latinos are Catholic, and the RCC has always been extremely theocracy-oriented in its criminal activities throughout history.
      But what sort of crazy answer would you get from the people who were polled? Probably something that sound incredibly insane to you and me. Do you really want to know? Maybe some of them will leave a comment here.
      Or call up one of their churches and ask the priest, pastor, whatever, what they think the answer might be.
      And before you hang up, be sure and ask them why they risk eternal damnation by using a phone, laugh insanely, and then hang up as they splutter to a stop.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Nigel P

      Hi -Nigel...

      Thanks for your opinions. Yes, I am sincere in my question given the article.

      You Wrote: " For the best answers, you should go directly to the source. Yes, I am suggesting that you talk to an actual "black" person."

      Actually, I have a number of "black" friends. They are all very intelligent... and... so... they are *not* religious, at all. So, maybe there is **some**correlation between intelligence and levels of religious ??

      Same goes for my "Asian" and "Hispanic" friends.

      You Wrote: " If that is too hard to do, then our guesses will have to do. I am guessing that it is because most people don't know squat about our First Amendment and cannot reason their way out of a paper bag. But the disparity could be caused by differences in culture alone, since the socio-cultural matrix experienced by many minorities in the USA includes a strongly-integrated religious aspect that is often self-defeating, such as African-Americans worshiping a god that approves of slavery while expecting "liberation" from that god, and many Latinos are Catholic, and the RCC has always been extremely theocracy-oriented in its criminal activities throughout history. "

      These sound like some reasonably sound potentials.

      You Wrote: " Or call up one of their churches and ask the priest, pastor, whatever, what they think the answer might be.
      And before you hang up, be sure and ask them why they risk eternal damnation by using a phone, laugh insanely, and then hang up as they splutter to a stop. "

      LOL !! 😀

      Peace...

      October 4, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Atheist Hunter

      Hi -Hunter...

      " Because they have had their share of persecution and they know it ain't fun! "

      I'm not clear as to your reasoning. Would you mind elaborating a bit ?

      Peace...

      October 4, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  10. William Demuth

    The less educated the group, the more religion matters.

    Pretty straight forward.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Big Willy D

      As a generalization that's most likely overall true... I agree with you.

      Peace...

      October 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Atheist Hunter

      The president it half black so explain your theory if he is so smart and so educated???

      October 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Nigel P

      Considering all the idiotic things the President does in between getting intelligent things done, I'm not so sure he's all that educated where sociology or viable political theory is concerned, so, yes, I do not respect his bad ideas and bad choices, but they are nothing compared to Romney's pathological lying and dishonesty.
      Obama is smart, but somewhat clueless about certain things.
      On the other hand, Romney is dumb, dishonest, clueless, and nothing but a ho.
      Not much of a choice, really. Obama is a thousand times better than Romney any day of the week. Obama is more deserving of the office than Romney will ever be.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Atheist Hunter

      You Wrote to @Willam DeMuth: " The president it half black so explain your theory if he is so smart and so educated??? "

      Hmmm... I don't think anyone, including the President, really believes he's very religious. Especially, in the 'evangelical' ridiculousness.

      And he most assuredly doesn't believe in the... "believe or burn" stupidity. He may believe in a God and believe in some of the teachings of Jesus, but his past history says- he ain't no real Christian like you are thinking... and... he is a pretty fvcking smart dude.

      Peace...

      October 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  11. Primewonk

    "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

    So why this bizarre fixation on needing a candidate to "out-Jesus" each other? Maybe this nutters will try and repeal the constîtution?

    October 4, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  12. Lord Golob from Kolob

    Our peon Mittens RMoney put on a fine show last night. Left hardly a stain on his Magic Underwear.

    Earthlings, just wait. Your planet will be our comfort station soon.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Nigel P

      You should look up the word "comfort". I don't think it means what you think it means.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  13. Sam Yaza

    of all my years living how come i never once done one of these surveys,,.. you know i have a survey how often do you actually partake in these surveys

    1) every chance i get; because I'm lonely and insecure and this is a way for me to fill about good my life.
    2) never; i cant seem to find enough time between my 2 full time minimum wage jobs and raising my 2.5 kids.
    3.)almost every chance i have, I,m retired in Miami and b!tch!ng is the only enjoyment i have in my life.
    4.) i have never seen a survey; I'm a conspiracy nut who believe that a secret society of politicians make the numbers up as they go.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      and the numbers are back

      76% say: 1) every chance i get; because I'm lonely and insecure and this is a way for me to fill about good my life.
      12% say: 3.)almost every chance i have, I,m retired in Miami and b!tch!ng is the only enjoyment i have in my life.
      6% say: 2) never; i cant seem to find enough time between my 2 full time minimum wage jobs and raising my 2.5 kids.
      87% say: 4.) i have never seen a survey; I'm a conspiracy nut who believe that a secret society of politicians make the numbers up as they go.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Reality

      There are ~230,000,000 adults in the USA. A statistically valid survey requires only 4000 phone calls. You do the math.

      October 4, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      the problem is, thy do not pick at random; they usually isolate a neighborhood. that is it self creates the invalid stat,because individuals tend to group up to and drive out the undesirables from the community. you tend to get pockets of Christians here, Muslims there, and Jews over yonder. (labels are replaceable) i know this because i was driving out of Anaheim with violence for being a Pagan. pick at random is really ever done, they usually pick a small geographic location the pool that area.

      October 4, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Reality

      See Gallup and Pew polls and how the studies are done to ensure reliable results.

      October 4, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  14. Reality

    Should religion matter in this election ? YES!!! The reasons why:

    ONLY FOR THE NEW MEMBERS OF THIS BLOG:-–>>>>>

    Romney is Mormon because he was born Mormon. Should we hold this against him? Actually in the 21st century we should since he has this severe affliction, the Three B Syndrome i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in Mormonism with no obvious change in his mental state which he could easily cure with some rational thinking.

    Obama also suffers from the same affliction as he believes in "pretty/ugly wingie thingies, bodily resurrections, atonement mumbo jumbo, et al. And there has been no change or desire to cure his version of the Three B Syndrome.

    We should be voting for leaders who can think rationally. Believing in angels, satans, bodily resurrections, atonement, and heavens of all kinds is irrational.

    Bottom line: BO and MR have been severely brainwashed in their theologically and historically flawed Christianity and they are too weak to escape its felonious grip. And we will be stuck with one of them for another four years of "god bless America" HOPING THAT THIS GOD WILL HELP THEM ELIMINATE OUR $16 TRILLION DEBT.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  15. Christianity and Islam is a mental disease- FACT

    Nearly 70% of black and 57% of Hispanic are delusional and in need of mental help. Religion is evidence of ignorance.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  16. Sue

    Religion divides.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  17. Non-Libber

    What were all of you people watching last night? Your guy got trounced and all you have is "well Robme lied and B.O. was tired from defending the world and Americans are stupid cuz some of them think Romney won" and then one of you throws a pedophile bomb. Seriously, that's what you say when your guy loses? Sorry, maybe B.O. needs to come up with a plan to fix some things. He's had four years and now he wants another four to mess thing up more. We can't afford B.O. and I'm glad he gave the country a reason to vote him out.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  18. Flappy

    I disagree. I am not sure why people think Romney won the debate. He looked very tired like he stayed up all night and he almost looked like he was going to cry before the debate started.

    Maybe I focus on different things. It seemed like a clear loss for Romney to me.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • DENNA

      You are right. Robme didn't have anything to lose and he, at his own fault, has had a rough couple of weeks. Unfortunately, we are like a nation of five year olds with voting privileges. Mr. Oily Smile bullied the president and the president patiently took it, so we think Oily won. We cannot afford to get distracted by this crap. Don't look at Robme, listen to him and compare what he said last night to older speeches and comments. The man turns on a dime like a top.

      October 4, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • 23 From Texas

      DENNA, Yes he sat back and took it... because he is really bad at talking without a teleprompter, and is afraid the Romney would fight back... so he, like the coward he is, waited until after the debate to take issue with Romney in new lying ads... BO is a coward and a loser, and I have no idea who in their right mind would vote for him. (Denna this insult was not meant for you... of course we can tell by your posts that you are not in your right mind, so you can go ahead saying whatever you would like). hahaha

      October 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  19. DENNA

    If I were Robme, I would be enjoying the "win". Mr. Oily Smile was long on talk but short on facts. Can this man even add and subtract? He pretty much gave President Obama fodder for more political ads because the fact checkers have disputed some of the things Robme stated as facts. President Obama really needs to step up his game and stop worrying about how he looks. This country is in real trouble and putting a Republican back in office will be a mistake from which we might not recover as a nation.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      I really got the feeling the President must have pulled an all nighter doing something important and it was still on his mind during the debate. He clearly wanted/needed to be somewhere else.

      October 4, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      "He clearly wanted/needed to be somewhere else"

      Something like celebrating his wedding anniversary, perhaps?

      October 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  20. Mass Debater

    There is no doubt Romney won the debate in sense of style and composure. The only problem was that he did so by lying his ass off every chance he got. When confronted by the reallities of his own plan he just said "No, thats not how it works" and then never went on to explain how it did work. The fact that the president did not press him on this was the only reason Mitt appeared to dominate the debate. And Mr. Lehrer was allowing Romney to walk all over him while chastising the President when he would attempt it.

    Long term, the debates will be a negative for Romney because he gave Obama too many one liners that could be used against him in adds when taken one at a time. You could almost piece together sound bites from last night and think Mitt Romney was the Democratic candidate. No tax breaks for the wealthy, Romney care, investing in clean energy (not green energy, like theres a difference...) and pouring the $716 billion in medicare back into medicare (just to the doctors who were gouging customers and tax payers in order for them to accept medicare). But I guess thats what Mitt Romney is best at, taking a position and then changing it almost faster than you can blink. He's like a street corner shell game performer and trys to keep all the eyes on his white smiling teeth. Too bad American's are almost stupid enough to fall for his slight of hand politics.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • 24 Hour Crisis Center

      Oh the American Pimples are plenty stupid enough Mass Debater, they voted for Reagan and W. 16 years of Mass Destruction.

      October 4, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • DENNA

      I love your post. It is nice to see that someone was looking beyond that oily smile. Seriously, if I saw this man standing around a school yard, I would call the police. America needs help and I am pretty sure that Robme is not the answer. Piling more GOP polices upon the mess that the last GOP adminstration left behind for the president, could finish America as we know it.

      October 4, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
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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.