Campaign advisers spin faith into values for Obama and Romney

Published: Sunday, Oct. 7 2012 1:00 p.m. MDT

Advisers for both campaigns appear to be accurately reading public opinion in their handling of the faith angle to the election. Public opinion surveys say that in this election, while being a believer is important to voters, jobs and the economy are their biggest concerns. "Voters have limited awareness of the religious faiths of both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama," a recent Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey concluded. "And there is little evidence to suggest that concerns about the candidates’ respective faiths will have a meaningful impact in the fall elections."

Follow-up surveys by Pew have also found that the religious groups some pundits predicted could derail either Obama's or Romney's quest to be president are now solidly behind their candidate. Romney has 75 percent support among white evangelical voters, and 54 percent of Catholics back Obama, despite the church's opposition to Obamacare's contraception mandate.

Another survey found a growing number of voters becoming weary of too much religious talk by politicians.

DeMoss attributed voters' decreased concern with a candidate's religion to the fact that the 2012 election is the second time both candidates have been before the public and voters know more about them this time around. In addition, the economic recession has been the top issue since Obama took office, eclipsing all other topics — including religion.

In an earlier presentation at the same conference, pollsters from Marist Institute for Public Opinion cited surveys showing 86 percent of voters said the economy was their top concern, while jobs were second at 80 percent, followed by cutting spending, the federal debt, fear of a terrorist attack and health care costs.

Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist poll, said the 2012 electorate is very polarized with half of them strongly committed to their candidate and another 25 percent leaning toward one or the other, leaving very few undecided voters.

"It looks like the final week of the campaign," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute. "It's not about persuasion, it's more about mobilization" to get their base to turn out and vote.

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