Romney’s faith could be a problem in GOP primary

November 23, 2011

If Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney can secure the
nomination, his Mormon faith shouldn't be an obstacle for voters in the
general election, according to a recently re­leased survey.

That
nomination may be a big "if." The survey from the Pew Research Center
shows that white evangelical Protestants—the heart of the GOP primary
electorate—are most likely to know that Romney is a Mormon and least
likely to support him.

That news came as polls showed Newt
Gingrich emerging as Romney's chief rival for the nomination, and as the
focus turned to the Iowa caucuses in early January. The Hawkeye state's
Repub­lican Party is dominated by the kind of conservative Christians
who view Rom­ney's Mormonism with suspicion.

The Pew survey of
1,576 registered voters, conducted November 9–14, shows that while 54
percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican believe that
Mormons are Christian, just 35 percent of white evangelicals agree with
that statement. Some 53 percent of white evangelicals say Mormonism is
not Christian. Just 17 percent of them say they will back Romney in the
primaries, as opposed to 23 percent of all GOP voters.

On the
other hand, the poll also shows that evangelical opposition to President
Obama is strong. Nearly nine in ten of those who say Mormons are not
Christians would back Romney over Obama. Romney's "religion has
implications for his nomination run but not for the general election,
should he be nominated as his party's standard-bearer," the Pew report
says.  —RNS