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Fact Sheet | Attitudes about Mormons and Implications for Mitt Romney’s Candidacy in 2012

[11.07.2011]

What You Need to Know

I. AMERICANS, RELIGION AND PRESIDENTS
Nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of the public say it is very or somewhat important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs. Majorities of every religious group and both political parties agree. [PRRI, September 2011]

II. KNOWLEDGE OF AND INTERACTIONS WITH MORMONS

  • Interactions with Mormons: Only about 3-in-10 (29 percent) Americans say they speak with Mormons at least occasionally, while nearly 7-in-10 say they seldom (27 percent) or never (41 percent) interact with Mormons. [PRRI, August 2011]
  • Knowledge about Mormons: Most Americans report that they do not know a lot about the religious beliefs and practices of Mormons. Seventeen percent of Americans say they know a lot, 55 percent say they know a little, and 27 percent say they do not know anything about religious beliefs and practices of Mormons. [PRRI, August 2011]

II. WHAT AMERICANS THINK ABOUT MORMONS

  • Mormons as Christians: Nearly 4-in-10 (38 percent) say they do not believe the Mormon faith is a Christian religion. There is significant disagreement between different religious groups. Half of white evangelical Protestants (50 percent) and black Protestants (50 percent) say the Mormon faith is not a Christian religion; however, majorities or pluralities of all other major religious groups and religiously unaffiliated Americans say that they consider the Mormon faith to be a Christian religion. [PRRI, September 2011]
  • Perceptions of Religious Difference: Roughly two-thirds of Americans say the religious beliefs of Mormons are somewhat (29 percent) or (37 percent) very different from their own religious beliefs. 7-in-10 (70 percent) white evangelical Protestants say that Mormons have religious beliefs that are at least somewhat different from their own, making them the most likely among religious Americans to believe that Mormon’s religious beliefs are different from their own. [PRRI, September 2011]
  • Favorability of Mormons: Despite perceived religious differences, Mormons are viewed favorably by two-thirds (67 percent) of the public. Even nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of white evangelicals, who are most likely among religious Americans to see Mormons’ religious beliefs different from their own, view Mormons favorably. [PRRI, August 2011]

IV. THE MORMON QUESTION IN THE 2012 ELECTION

  • Religious Identification of Mitt Romney: More than half (51 percent) of American voters correctly identify Mitt Romney as Mormon. Thirty-five percent say they do not know Romney’s religious identity. More than 6-in-10 white evangelical voters (63 percent) and Republican voters (65 percent) correctly identify Romney’s faith as Mormon. [PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, May 2012]
  • Comfort with a Mormon serving as President: A majority (53 percent) of voters report that they would be somewhat or very comfortable with a Mormon serving as President, although more than 4-in-10 (42 percent) say that a Mormon president would make them somewhat or very uncomfortable. Among white evangelical Protestant voters, 47 percent report being uncomfortable with the idea of a Mormon president. [PRRI, , September 2011]
  • Perceived Religious Difference of Mitt Romney: Half (50 percent) of voters think that Romney’s religion is somewhat or very different than their own, while 30 percent say his religion is somewhat or very similar to their own, and 18 percent say they don’t know. [PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, May 2012]
  • Impact of Perceived Religious Differences: Among voters who believe Romney’s religious beliefs are somewhat or very similar to their own, over two-thirds (68 percent) have a favorable view of him. In contrast, among voters who believe that Romney’s religious beliefs are somewhat or very different from their own, only 37 percent report having a favorable opinion of Romney. [PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, May 2012]
  • The Evangelical Vote: There are clear signs that white evangelical Protestants are moving beyond any reservations they may have held earlier in the campaign about Romney’s Mormon faith. Romney’s favorability among white evangelical voters has increased 27 points from 40 percent in October 2011 to 67 percent in May 2012. During the same period knowledge of Romney’s faith also increased among evangelical voters. More than 6-in-10 (63 percent) white evangelicals correctly identify Romney’s faith as Mormon, an increase of 8 points from October 2011. Finally, even among white evangelical voters who say Romney’s religious beliefs are different from their own, Romney holds a commanding 45-point lead over Obama (67 percent vs. 22 percent). [PRRI, Religion and Politics Tracking Survey, October 2011; PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, May 2012]

Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization specializing in work at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.

UPDATED: May 24, 2012