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Friday, May 18, 2012

Brooking Institute Study

A recent study by the Brookings Institute confirms what I had suspected: Mormonism (membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) isn't going to be the big issue for Romney that some people think it is. Yes, Romney lost the evangelical vote in many primaries, but these voters are still overwhelmingly likely to support Romney in the general election.
The primary elections fueled speculation about anti-Mormon bigotry among evangelical voters, but it is important to note that these voters overwhelmingly back the presumptive Republican nominee over incumbent Democrat Barack Obama. Nearly three-fourths of evangelical Christians chose Romney and only 20% chose Obama in trial heats taken shortly after Santorum’s exit from the Republican primary.
These supposedly anti-Romney voters are among the least supportive of the president. Only one in four white, evangelical Christians has favorable opinions of Obama. Indeed, among Republicans who do not think of Mormons as Christians— that is, the subgroup believed most predisposed against Romney—fully 92% have unfavorable opinions of Barack Obama.
This doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Nor does the results of the further study of how people change their voting when presented with more information about Mormonism, whether or not highlighting the differences or similarities between Mormonism and mainstream Christianity. Here is their conclusion:
Our results should not be taken as definitive, particularly because they are not based on a nationally representative sample. But they do suggest that concerns over Mitt Romney’s "religion problem" have been overblown and quite possibly miss a compelling counter-narrative. Romney’s religion does not seem to reduce his support among white evangelicals. Even priming these prospective voters to think about differences between their own faith and the Republican nominee’s does not drive a wedge between them. Instead, information about Romney’s religion may actually increase his support from conservative voters, including among conservative white evangelical Christians. On the other hand, Romney’s religion does not cost him any votes among liberals who are generally not supportive of him anyhow. At the end of the day, it appears that voters’ long-term political preferences matter more for their general election choice than the religious identity of the Republican nominee.
I'm always happy to have my gut instinct backed up with more information! Time will tell, of course, whether religion will hurt or help Romney substantially or not. If this Brookings study is correct on a national level, whether voters are presented with the good, the bad, or the different isn't going to matter that much, and seems to be more helpful than hurtful.

I saw on Buzzfeed that liberals are interpreting this study as Americans don't know much about Mormonism, but what they learn may sway them. Now that the Democrats have declared open season on Mormonism (because a super-PAC plans to use Jeremiah Wright against Obama), be prepared for an ugly campaign season, folks. Don't worry about it, because the conservative media will continue to respond and dispel distortions and lies, but be prepared not to take at face value what the liberals say about the LDS Church or about Romney.

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