Romney’s religion still an issue for many Republicans
Mitt Romney might be looking to open up an unassailable lead over rival Rick Santorum in the 10 “Super Tuesday” nominating contests, but he still faces questions among many of his fellow Republicans about his Mormon religion, according to recent NBC/Marist poll results.
NBC/Marist found that large numbers of Republicans voters — a range of 37 to 44 percent — in two of the states holding primaries on March 6 – Ohio and Virginia – and others that voted last week - Michigan and Arizona – do not believe that Mormons are Christians, or are unsure whether they are.
The percentages were the same in Virginia, Ohio and Michigan, where 44 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they did not believe that Mormons are Christians or were not sure, and 56 percent said they do believe a Mormon is a Christian, according to the polls. Polling was done in all of the states before they held their primaries.
In Arizona, 63 percent of likely Republican voters polled before the primary believed Mormons were Christians, while 37 percent did not or weren’t sure. In Florida, 60 percent of likely Republican primary voters said Mormons were Christians, and 40 percent did not or were not sure.
The polls found some correlations between those views and support for Mitt Romney, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the formal name for Mormonism, compared with his main rival, Rick Santorum, a former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania best known for his unflinchingly religious conservative views on issues such as opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage.
In Ohio, the biggest prize among the 10 Super Tuesday states, NBC/Marist found that Romney led Santorum by 38 percent to 28 percent among likely Republican voters who believe Mormons are Christians. But among those who don’t or who are unsure, Santorum led Romney by 41 percent to 24 percent. Santorum is not on Virginia’s primary ballot.
In Michigan, Romney led Santorum 45 percent to 28 percent among those who say Mormons are Christians, but Santorum led 44 percent to 26 percent among the other group. Romney won the Michigan primary by 41.1 percent to 37.9 percent for Santorum. In Arizona, Romney led Santorum 53 percent to 22 percent among likely Republican voters who said Mormons are Christians, but Santorum led 37 percent to 26 percent among the other group. Romney won the Arizona primary by 47.3 percent to 26.6 percent to Santorum.
Mormons make up nearly 2 percent of the U.S. population, and Romney would be the first Mormon U.S. president. Mormons see themselves as Christian, but they battle the perception by some non-Mormons that they are a cult based on their belief in living apostles and prophets, two additional books of scripture besides the Bible and other tenets.
These views might be sapping Romney’s support in Republican primaries and caucuses, but it is not certain how they would affect him in a general election fight against Democratic President Barack Obama in November. Romney has not won the support of evangelical Christian voters in any primary or caucus so far, but this could be because many are wary over more moderate positions he took on social issues while running for office in Massachusetts, a mostly Democratic state where he became governor and lost a U.S. Senate race.
A Pew survey last year concluded that Romney’s presidential candidacy could face resistance in the Republican primaries from evangelical Christian voters, but they would support him over the Democratic incumbent Obama.
Picture credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder