Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion is a factor for some voters, but it is likely to be mostly background noise if it’s a Romney vs. Obama race.
Gallup has recorded since the 1960s between 17 percent and 22 percent of voters (a high of 24 percent was registered in 2007, the last time Romney was a high-profile candidate) saying that they would not vote for a Mormon, who by all other criteria, was well qualified.
Gallup points out what the double-digit resistance to electing a Mormon president has survived for more than 40 years, whereas resistance to Catholics, Jews, blacks and women has declined to single digits since the 1960s and 1970s. Only a gay, lesbian or atheist candidate would generate as much resistance as a Mormon today.
But the importance of the issue is mitigated by many people not being familiar with Romney’s religion and it being most important to more churched voters, who are highly unlikely, due to partisanship and social issues, to vote for President Obama.
The election dynamics will likely make Mormonism a bigger issue in the primaries than the general election. Pew points out that the white evangelical voters have the most qualms with Romney’s religion. Since Romney survived Iowa, and if he can maintain momentum through South Carolina, he likely will be judged on a host of other issues than his religion for the rest of the nomination process.
However, he will likely have a Jeremiah Wright movement sometime in 2012 where he must, in a high-profile way, explain what his religion does and does not do for him as a politician.
See following articles:
Washington Post: For Romney, Mormon question rears its ugly head in Iowa
New York Times: Poll finds religion is early drag on Romney