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Poll: Majority don't care if candidate is Mormon

Published: Friday, June 3 2011 7:26 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — More than two-thirds of Americans say it would not matter to them if a presidential candidate was a Mormon.

So says a recent national poll released this week by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Two members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have figured prominently in Republican Party presidential field discussions, with Mitt Romney this week announcing his bid and Jon Huntsman mulling a similar possibility.

The result is plenty of talk of LDS Church connections, their Mormon faith and projections on how that might play — or not – with voters in the 2012 presidential election.

According to the Pew poll, a substantial majority of respondents — 68 percent — say a candidate's Mormon affiliation doesn't matter to them, while 25 percent say they would be less likely to support an LDS candidate and another 5 percent be more likely to support.

The fact the number of potential LDS candidates has doubled since the 2008 elections — when Romney lost the Republican bid to John McCain, while Huntsman was still serving as Utah's governor — hasn't swayed voter preferences much in the four years since.

The 68-25-5 percentages don't differ considerably from February 2007, when 64 percent said the Mormon affiliation wouldn't matter, with 30 percent less likely to support an LDS candidate and 2 percent more likely to support.

The demographic breakdown of responses about support or lack of support of an LDS presidential candidate shows marked differences.

More Democrats than Republicans says they would be less likely to support a Mormon candidate, with 41 percent of liberal Democrats the largest group of "less-likely supporters." Meanwhile, only a quarter or fewer of respondents in the other political groups say a candidate's LDS membership would result in less support.

As for religious affiliation, 34 percent of white evangelical Protestants say they would less likely support a Mormon candidate, compared to 24 percent of the religiously unaffiliated, 19 percent of white mainline Protestants and 16 percent of white Catholics.

Pew says those numbers have changed little since 2007.

The poll looked specifically at Romney and his religion, able to compare 2007 and 2011 data.

More respondents have heard of the former Massachusetts governor in the four years since, and a higher percentage say there is either a good chance or some chance they would vote for him — a combined 51 percent versus the 35 percent in '07.

Conversely, 44 percent say there is no chance they would vote for Romney, compared to the 50 percent four years ago.

Romney is the GOP candidate with the most broad potential appeal, Pew data shows. He, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are the most recognized by poll respondents; however, of those who say they've heard of latter three, at least 60 percent say there is no chance they would vote for either of the trio.

The Pew Research Center survey people-press.org/2011/06/02/republican-candidates-stir-little-enthusiasm/ was conducted May 25-30 among 1,509 adults. Complete results and Pew's report can be found at pewforum.org/.

Other results from the Pew poll:

President Barack Obama holds a lead against a generic Republic opponent in the projected 2012 elections, with 48 percent of the respondents who are registered voters preferring Obama's re-election versus the 37 percent preferring a Republican president.

Race or gender: doesn't reflect much, with respondents saying a candidate being black (89 percent), Hispanic (80 percent) or a woman (77 percent) doesn't matter in their response of support.

61 percent say they would be less likely to support a candidate who does not believe in God.

46 percent say they would be less likely to support a presidential candidate who had an extramarital affair, up from 39 percent in Feb. 2007.

33 percent say they would less likely support a candidate who is homosexual, down from 46 percent in 2007.

EMAIL: taylor@desnews.com

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