Anti Mormons

Now that Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee for President, he faces an uphill struggle to win the election. I know that this has not been a good week for President Obama, and he is likely to have more bad weeks in the immediate future. Still, it is hard to unseat an incumbent president. One of the difficulties Romney is likely to have is overcoming prejudice against his Mormon faith. It seems that evangelical Christians, in their usual close-minded, intolerant way, are reluctant to vote for him and are becoming even more anti-Mormon in their attitudes.

Oh, wait. I read that wrong. Evangelicals are just fine with Romney’s Mormonism. It is the open-minded, tolerant Liberals who won’t vote for him based on his faith.

Americans’ aversion to voting for Mormons has spiked since Mitt Romney’s first presidential bid in 2007 — and that the people most wary of Mormon candidates are not Evangelicals, but rather political liberals and non-religious voters, according to new research from a leading scholar of anti-Mormon attitudes.

The overall increase in anti-Mormon attitudes among liberals may be an unanticipated consequence of the “the continuing candidacy of Mitt Romney and Mormon activism against same-sex marriage,” the study suggests. And its findings may be alarming to the Romney campaign because among the study’s other findings is that voters’ perceptions of Mormonism are closely tied to whether they’ll vote for him.

According to American National Election Studies, nearly 35 percent of national respondents said in February they were “less likely” to vote for a Mormon. That’s up nine points from 2007, when Pew found 26 percent of voters expressing concern about pulling the lever for a Latter-day Saint.

The uptick in anti-Mormon voter attitudes may come as a surprise to those who predicted Romney’s candidacy would have a mainstreaming effect on his faith. But as University of Sydney scholar David Smith, the paper’s author, writes, just as President Obama’s successful candidacy didn’t put an end to tense race relations in America, Romney’s political assent hasn’t cured the country of anti-Mormonism. In fact, as the data shows, Romney’s rise may have lead to increased anxiety about his religion among his natural political opponents.

According to the paper, concern about Mormonism has remained relatively stable among Evangelicals, with 36 percent expressing aversion to an LDS candidate in 2007 and 33 percent doing so in 2012. But among non-religious voters, that number shot up 20 points in the past five years, from 21 percent in 2007 to 41 percent in February. There were also substantial increases in Mormon-averse voters among liberals — 28 percent in 2007 and 43 percent in 2012 — as well as moderates, who went from 22 percent in 2007 to 32 percent this year.

“Aversion to Mormons is still an important force in American public opinion, and one that seriously affects Romney’s chances even if he ultimately overcomes it,” Smith writes in his paper, available online here.

Smith is the author of a detailed analysis on anti-Mormonism in the 2008 election, which suggested that the belief that Mormons aren’t Christian was tightly linked to opposition to Romney among Christian conservatives.

I don’t have much use for Mormon theology, but the fact is, that Mormonism, like the more conservative Protestant sects and Catholicism, at least in theory, is a religion that makes demands on its adherents. That is to say, it teaches that some actions are right and others are wrong, regardless of what might be popular or expedient. Liberals, whether Christian, Jewish, or nonreligious have long ago given up the worship of God for the worship of the State and the idea that there should be any standards above that of the state or of the whims of the moment is simply hateful to them.

There are some Conservatives who are wary of voting for a Mormon.

Perhaps most potentially distressing to Romney’s campaign is the study’s finding that conservatives who said they were less likely to vote for a Mormon were much more likely to say they were undecided or would not vote at all in a contest between Obama and Romney. Pundits have been predicting for months that anti-Mormon Republicans would stay home in November; this study reaffirms that idea.

The paper comes with an important caveat: the survey data was collected in late February and early March — in the heat of the Republican primaries. At that point, Romney was the clear frontrunner, but far from the presumed nominee. Since his opponents dropped out, Romney has earned plaudits from Republican operatives and activists for uniting the right behind him with his combative campaign style.

I hope they will come around. As I said, I have little use for Mormon theology and don’t really consider them Christians. But, as Martin Luther is supposed to have said, “I would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian”. Whatever you might think of Romney’s religion, he has to be a better ruler than that fool we have in the White House now.

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