Jon HuntsmanMitt RomneyMormonPollingPresident 2012

President 2012 Poll Watch: 22% Won’t Vote for a Mormon Presidential Candidate

According to the latest Gallup Poll.
Though the vast majority of Americans say they would vote for their party’s nominee for president in 2012 if that person happens to be a Mormon, 22% say they would not, a figure largely unchanged since 1967.

The question is mainly relevant to the Republican and independent vote in 2012, given that the current Republican front-runner, Mitt Romney, is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church, and that another Mormon, former Utah Gov. and former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, may enter the race for the GOP nomination as early as next week.

The new Gallup poll, conducted June 9-12, finds nearly 20% of Republicans and independents saying they would not support a Mormon for president. That is slightly lower than the 27% of Democrats saying the same.

What are the demographics of this political bias?

So, it is mainly educational level – with the less educated saying they would not be willing to vote for a Mormon.

And, what about other voting preference bias?

Only gay/lesbian and an athiest President would be less preferred than a Mormon.

The stability in U.S. bias against voting for a Mormon presidential candidate contrasts markedly with steep declines in similar views toward several other groups over the past half-century, including blacks, women, Catholics, and Jews. The last time as many as 22% of Americans said they would not vote for any of these groups (the same level opposed to voting for a Mormon today) was 1959 for Catholics, 1961 for Jews, 1971 for blacks, and 1975 for women. As noted, opposition to voting for each of these has since tapered off to single digits.

Still, it is significant that in 1959, the year before John F. Kennedy won election as the nation’s first Catholic president, 25% of Americans — including 22% of Democrats, 33% of Republicans, and 18% of independents — said they would not vote for a Catholic. Public opposition fell to 21% by May 1960 and to 13% by August 1961.

So, what does this all mean?

Republican Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman who are both Mormon face additional obstacles to the GOP Presidential nomination because of religious bias against their candidaacies. But, like President John Kennedy will either of them be able to persuade voters that their biases are unwarranted?

Perhaps.

In the early primary states of Iowa and South Carolina, there are very active Evangelical Christians who hold the Mormon or Latter Day Saint’s Church with disdain. Many of these voters will NOT be voting for either Romney or Huntsman. In a very divided early primary GOP field this would likely mean a loss, delivering momentum to other candidates. Will this be enough to derail Romney who is way ahead in the early state of New Hampshire?

I guess we will see?

And, it really depends upon who enters the GOP primary field and how many survive to campaign in Florida and the Super Tuesday states.

Americans’ reluctance to support a Mormon for president has held close to the 20% level since Gallup first measured this in 1967, and long after historical biases against voting for blacks, Catholics, Jews, and women have dwindled.

Currently, 18% of Republicans say they would not vote for their party’s nominee if that person happened to be Mormon. This may be less troubling for Romney in the GOP primaries, where the vote could be highly fractured anyway, than in the general election, where — should he win the Republican nomination — he would need nearly complete support from Republicans to be competitive with President Obama. However, Kennedy’s success in overcoming a similar challenge in 1960 relating to his Catholic faith may give hope to Romney and his supporters about his electability in 2012.