Trouble for Romney, Huntsman? New poll shows some resistance to voting for a Mormon

At a farm in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney announced his intentions to seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, reports Nancy Cordes.
Darren McCollester
Romney announces 2nd try for GOP nomination
At a farm in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney announced his intentions to seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Darren McCollester

While the majority of Americans say they would vote for their party's presidential nominee if he or she happened to be a Mormon, 22 percent said they would not, according to a new Gallup poll.

The current figures reflect a sentiment that has remained fairly consistent over time, Gallup indicates: In 1967, the first time Gallup surveyed the question, 17 percent of Americans said that a nominee's Mormon faith would prevent them from voting for that candidate. Since then, the figure has vascillated between 17 and 24 percent.

Democrats surveyed in the poll were less likely to support a Mormon candidate than were Republicans or Independents, with 27 percent saying they would be hesitant to vote for a Mormon. Eighteen percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Independents said the same thing.

Americans with no college experience, however, expressed the most hesitancy toward Mormon candidates: 31 percent said they would not vote for a Mormon. Meanwhile, only 12 percent of college graduates said the same thing. According to Gallup, "this educational pattern is seen in attitudes about voting for someone from almost all of the specific religious or demographic groups tested in the poll."

The question takes on particular relevancy in the 2012 elections: Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, seen by many as the leading Republican candidate in the race so far, is a Mormon; so is Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who announced his candidacy this morning

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Furthermore, the survey indicates that American resistance to voting for a Mormon president ranks third among voters, trailing an atheist and a gay or lesbian. The poll indicates much less resistance - ten percent or less - to a candidate who is black, Hispanic, Catholic, Jewish, Baptist, or a woman.

And while both Romney and Huntsman are expected to lobby for money from the Mormon community, the two will also likely be competing for the top donors overall due to their ties to the business community.

Nevertheless, some believe that 2012 will be an opportunity for Mormons to change their perception in the political community.

"I think that 2012 will be remembered as a pretty important year for Mormons," said University of Notre Dame political scientist David Campbell, a Mormon, in an interview with the Washington Post. Campbell added that Romney or Huntsman could "become the JFK of Mormons and put the religion question to rest."