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Romney vs. Obama: Who do black Mormons support?

Published: Monday, Oct. 24 2011 10:36 a.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney buttons up his jacket after finishing a talk at Microsoft headquarters Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011, in Redmond, Wash.

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

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If the 2012 presidential campaign turns out to be a race between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, whom would black members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints favor?

"The consensus among black Mormons is that there is no consensus," wrote Chika Oduah on thegrio.com, a website "devoted to providing African Americans with stories and perspectives that appeal to them."

"Political views among African-American Latter-day Saints run the spectrum and many of them say that the religious affiliation of Romney and of former Utah Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman does not play a role in their perceptions of the two as politicians," Oduah continued. "Color doesn't seem to be an issue either."

Oduah's long, detailed story creates an accurate historical context for African-American Mormons, who, the writer points out, "live with a poignant awareness that two traits of their self-identity have faced historical discrimination: one is being black, and the other, being a Mormon."

After speaking to a number of black Latter-day Saints and sharing bits and pieces of their experiences and insights, Oduah concludes: "Being black by birth and Mormon by choice for many in America means choosing not to judge people by race or religion or even political party, but by content of character."

Still, research seems to suggest that there are many who are inclined to cast their presidential ballots on the basis of religion. In the American Spectator, a columnist who goes by the "nom de cyber" of "Thirsty McWormwood" cited a number of recent polls indicating that for all of the recent media attention given to those from the conservative right who are uncomfortable voting for an LDS candidate, it is actually the votes on the liberal left who are the least likely to vote for a Mormon.

"It is not Red State voters who fear Mormons the most," the article states. "It is the secular, college-educated, liberal blue state voters that do."

The article recounts some of the more outrageous comments that liberal spokespeople have made with regards to the LDS Church and its teachers. Then the writer observes: "Romney's Mormonism will complicate his hopes of making it to the White House — it already has — but it is worth remembering that the people who are most likely to say, 'Heck, no, I'm not voting for one of them,' don't vote Republican in the first place."

And if all of this "who likes Romney/Mormons and who doesn't" rhetoric is a little dizzying, the Public Religion Research Institute has prepared a fact sheet that outlines "what you need to know" about "Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith." The fact sheet provides links to recent research about "what Americans think about Mormons" and "What this means to Mitt Romney."

There also are links to some recent news articles that provide some interesting perspective on the matter, like the Washington Post article in which Robert P. Jones observes that "while President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney may have different religious backgrounds, they share a surprisingly similar religious dilemma: most Americans can't correctly identify their religion, and more American than not say that each of these leaders' religious beliefs are different from their own."

EMAIL: jwalker@desnews.com

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