A new study by the Pew Research Center suggests that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism may hurt his chances of capturing the Republican nomination for President. If Romney is nominated, however, his faith is unlikely to hurt him in the general election.
Although only about half of voters know that Romney is a Mormon, 60 percent of Evangelical Republicans are aware of Romney’s faith according to the survey. Only 8 percent of overall voters say that Romney’s faith makes them less likely to vote for him, but that number jumps to 15 percent among white Republican evangelical Christians.
This could be a big hurdle for Romney to overcome. White evangelicals are a critical voting bloc, especially in the Republican primary, and 47 percent of that group do not believe that the Mormon religion is Christian. This poses a problem for Romney, as his favorability drops by 10 percent among those who do not believe that Mormonism is a Christian religion.
Romney is already struggling to attract white evangelical support; only 17 percent of the group supports his candidacy in the primaries. The fact that so many evangelicals tend to disapprove of Mormonism in general suggests that their opinion of Romney could suffer even more as they become more aware of Romney’s faith, and without evangelical support is is very difficult to win in early states such as Iowa and South Carolina.
Despite these concerns, the Pew survey suggests that Romney’s religion is unlikely to hurt him if he becomes the Republican nominee opposing President Obama in the general election. White evangelicals may be distrustful of Romney, but they despise Obama. According to the poll, 91 percent of white Republican evangelicals would support Romney in a hypothetical matchup against the president. Furthermore, 58 percent of Republicans who do not view Mormonism as a religion have a very unfavorable opinion of Obama, and 89 percent of them would support Romney over Obama. So it seems that, if Romney can survive the opposition of white evangelicals in the primary, he will probably enjoy their support in the general election.