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Mitt Romney's Mormon religion will have little impact in election

Published: Thursday, July 26 2012 10:35 a.m. MDT

Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney greets supporters during a campaign stop at the Hires Big H on 700 East and 400 South in Salt Lake City Friday, June 24, 2011. The latest Pew Forum survey shows few voters are concerned about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, and those who are concerned say it won't determine how they vote. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News archives) Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney greets supporters during a campaign stop at the Hires Big H on 700 East and 400 South in Salt Lake City Friday, June 24, 2011. The latest Pew Forum survey shows few voters are concerned about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, and those who are concerned say it won't determine how they vote. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News archives)

SALT LAKE CITY — Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, considered to be a potential liability in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, will likely have little consequence when voters go to the polls in November, according to a new survey.

Sixty percent of voters who know Romney is Mormon say they are comfortable with that, while 19 percent say it doesn't matter, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found. And among Republicans who are uncomfortable with the presumptive GOP nominee's faith, a whopping 93 percent say they will still vote for him.

"That's not to say that is no concern or discomfort about Romney's faith, but to the extent that there is any, it doesn’t seem to be having an impact on how people will vote," said Greg Smith, senior researcher with the Pew Research Center.

The survey found 60 percent knew Romney is Mormon, but confusion still persists over President Barack Obama's faith. After nearly four years in office, the number who say Obama is Muslim has increased 5 percentage points to 17 percent, while those who say he is Christian fell 6 percentage points to 49 percent.

Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney greets supporters during a campaign stop at the Hires Big H on 700 East and 400 South in Salt Lake City Friday, June 24, 2011. The latest Pew Forum survey shows few voters are concerned about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, and those who are concerned say it won't determine how they vote. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News archives) Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney greets supporters during a campaign stop at the Hires Big H on 700 East and 400 South in Salt Lake City Friday, June 24, 2011. The latest Pew Forum survey shows few voters are concerned about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, and those who are concerned say it won't determine how they vote. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News archives)

The nationwide survey of 2,973 adults, including 2,373 registered voters, was conducted June 28-July 9 by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The overall sample had 2 percent margin of error.

The recent numbers bear out what the Pew Research Center found in November of last year — that Romney's membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be a drag on his primary campaign but a non-factor if he won the GOP nomination.

At that time, Romney trailed Herman Cain by nine points among white evangelical Republican and Republican-leaning voters and led by that same margin among white mainline Protestant Republicans. He was running about even with Cain among white Catholic GOP voters. Those evangelical voters were a dominant voting bloc in the primary states where Romney lost.

Mitt Romney greets people in the crowd after he meets with businessmen and women at Hires Big H Drive-in, Friday, June 24, 2011, Salt Lake City. The latest Pew Forum survey shows few voters are concerned about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, and those who are concerned say it won't determine how they vote. (Ravell Call, Deseret News archives) Mitt Romney greets people in the crowd after he meets with businessmen and women at Hires Big H Drive-in, Friday, June 24, 2011, Salt Lake City. The latest Pew Forum survey shows few voters are concerned about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, and those who are concerned say it won't determine how they vote. (Ravell Call, Deseret News archives)

But the recent survey shows those voters appear to be rallying — some reluctantly — behind the last man standing before next month's GOP convention in Tampa Bay, Fla.

"White evangelical Protestants overwhelmingly back Romney over Obama regardless of their feelings about his faith," the Pew survey stated. "But evangelicals who are comfortable with Romney's Mormonism express substantially more strong support for his candidacy than those who are uncomfortable with his faith (41 percent vs. 16 percent)."

Other findings in the survey include:

— More than 30 percent don't know the religious affiliation of either Romney or Obama.

— In 2008, 16 percent of conservative Republicans said Obama was Muslim, while 34 percent of that same group say that today.

Mitt Romney meets with businessmen and women at Hires Big H Drive-in, Friday, June 24, 2011, Salt Lake City. Mary Thompson is serving drinks and taking orders. At left is Lt. Gov. Greg Bell of Utah. The latest Pew Forum survey shows few voters are concerned about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, and those who are concerned say it won't determine how they vote. (Ravell Call, Deseret News archives) Mitt Romney meets with businessmen and women at Hires Big H Drive-in, Friday, June 24, 2011, Salt Lake City. Mary Thompson is serving drinks and taking orders. At left is Lt. Gov. Greg Bell of Utah. The latest Pew Forum survey shows few voters are concerned about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, and those who are concerned say it won't determine how they vote. (Ravell Call, Deseret News archives)

— 67 percent said it was important for the president to have strong religious beliefs.

— 52 percent said it does not bother them when politicians "talk about how religious they are."

— 66 percent said churches or houses of worship should not endorse political candidates.

— 65 percent said liberals have gone too far in trying to keep religion out of schools and government.

— 48 percent said Christians have gone too far in trying to impose their religious values on the country.

— 50 percent of non-Mormons said Mormonism is a Christian religion, while 31 percent say it is not. Those numbers have remained steady since 2007.

This story will be updated with more analysis and reaction.

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