Does Romney really have a ‘religion problem’?

BRIAN SNYDER REUTERS Will Romney’s Mormon religion drive a wedge between him and evangelical Christian voters? Last October, socially conservative … Continued

BRIAN SNYDER

REUTERS

Will Romney’s Mormon religion drive a wedge between him and evangelical Christian voters?

Last October, socially conservative activists and politicians gathered for the Values Voter Summit sponsored by the evangelical Family Research Council. With the Republican primaries just months away, Pastor Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas warned the gathering that “Every true, born again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.” The non-Christian he had in mind was Mitt Romney, who will soon become the first member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), more commonly known as Mormons, to receive the presidential nomination of a major party.

Jeffress’s comments rekindled skepticism about Romney’s electoral prospects among white, evangelical Christian voters, many of whom regard Mormons as non-Christians. Romney’s struggles with this staple of the Republican coalition during the primaries only added fuel to speculation about his “religion problem.” And now that Romney has secured the nomination, questions turn to whether a general election campaign that spreads the word about his religion and emphasizes the differences between the Mormon faith and their own will demobilize these evangelical voters. Indeed, his commencement address earlier this month at Liberty University, a conservative evangelical institution, was touted as an opportunity to “calm fears that his Mormon faith would be an obstacle to evangelical Christian voters.”

Each election year sees its own version of the narrative about disgruntled partisan reluctance to back the nominee. In 2004, Deaniacs were going to fly to Ralph Nader. Four years later, Hillary Clinton’s primary voters were going to stay home and feast on sour grapes. The trouble with these narratives is that it almost never turns out that way. Disaffected partisans tend to set aside their differences with the nominee by Election Day. But this year’s version is more worrisome as it suggests religious bigotry is alive and well in America.

Will Romney’s religion drive a wedge between him and evangelical Christian voters? In our new Brookings Institution report, we address this question using a survey experiment aimed at simulating the effect of learning more about Mormonism on political opinions. We provided respondents with different pieces of information about Romney’s religion and about Mormon beliefs. Respondents received one of four pieces of information: 1) no information about Romney’s religion; 2) information identifying Romney as a Mormon; 3) information that emphasized similarities between Mormons and mainstream Christians; and 4) information that emphasized differences between Mormons and mainstream Christians.


View Photo Gallery: Scenes of religious faith meeting politics in the 2012 campaign.

We find little evidence that any of the information prompts about Romney had more than a trivial effect on his electoral prospects. Respondents in general-and white evangelicals in particular-were just as likely to support Romney regardless of what they were told about Romney’s religion. Surprisingly, even providing information about Mormon beliefs that conflict with traditional Christian beliefs did not decrease support among evangelicals.

A notable exception was political conservatives, who were more likely to support Romney after reading any mention of his religion–regardless of the exact content of the message. Perhaps this is because associating Romney with a traditionally conservative religion makes him appear more aligned with these conservative respondents.

Although our results should not be taken as definitive, they do strongly 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. Instead, information about Romney’s religion may actually increase his support from conservative voters, including among conservative white evangelical Christians. As for Reverend Jeffress, he has experienced a conversion of his own and endorsed Romney last month “in spite of his Mormon faith.”

Matthew M. Chingos is a fellow in governance studies at The Brookings Institution

Michael Henderson is assistant professor of political science, University of Mississippi

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  • persiflage

    Romney’s got a party problem – republicans are a disaster in government affairs. Changing horses in the middle of this particular stream of historical import will set the country back to the turn of the present century – when things really began to go to he!! in a handbasket. The religion nonsense is a complete distraction leading nowhere.

  • Vanka

    How about some of these “beliefs”:

    The racist doctrine and policies of the LDS Church are infamous and beyond debate. The sad fact, however, is that LDS Church leaders continue to spin, twist, deny, and play semantic games to save face instead of just admitting that their “prophets” are bogus and have no more access to or authority from god than any other man or woman on the street.

    And more embarrassing than even that, is the fact that Mormons never change or address such inhumane and unethical positions until it HURTS their bottom line (losing tithing revenue from people leaving, or from convert baptisms declining) and they are “forced” to change their doctrines and policies!

    American society agreed almost 15 years before Mormons did that discrimination on the basis of race was a bad doctrine and policy! Only because the racism of Mormonism cost George Romney (Mitt’s daddy) the Republican nomination did their cousin (Marion G. Romney), a member of Spencer Kimball’s “First Presidency” and Quorum of the 12 Apostles make inroads into the dogmatic stance of the old, white men who lead the Mormons. In other words, the “revelation” opening the Mormon priesthood and temple blessings up to blacks was 1) not openly called a “revelation” from god, and 2) was coerced by societal, financial, and public relations pressures!

    Nice to know the Mormon god has to be coerced into giving “revelation” and lacks the proactive, foresight one might hope an omniscient being possesses!

    And even now, the LDS Church leaders fail to take a proactive, leadership approach and formally apologize for the Church’s past racism, but instead, ONLY because it “looks bad” when WaPo publishes an expose, do they REACT with public relations damage control.

    How pathetic that those who claim to be the only true, living, and authorized spokespersons for god have to be embarrassed, cajoled, coerced, and dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century and an ethical, humane modern world!

  • Vanka

    Are these beliefs a problem for a US POTUS?

    The real reason Romney is perceived as a “moderate”, and a “flip-flopper”, and as a candidate with no clear message is simply this: He will do ANYTHING to win!

    So what is driving this opportunistic, apparently aimless ambition for the most powerful position on the planet?

    Romney is driven by a deeper, more totalitarian, theocratic, and secret vision of the world than either the Democrats or Republicans can imagine.

    His “character” is that of a totally dedicated cult member!

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, but is at the present limited to an ecclesiastical kingdom. During the millennial era, the kingdom of God will be both political and ecclesiastical, and will have worldwide jurisdiction in political realms when the Lord has made ‘a full end of all nations’ (D&C 87: 6).” (LDS Bible Dictionary).

    Read that again and let it sink in. Romney and his Mormon Church aspire to bring “a full end of all nations”, and that includes the United States of America!

    And it won’t be done peacefully. Doctrine and Covenants 87:6 says this “end to all nations” will be accomplished through war and bloodshed:

    “And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed…shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations;”

    This is not a vision of the world that cares what you or I think. If you do not comply, conform, and obey, you will be eliminated:

    Doctrine and Covenants 1:14 declares:

    “…the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants (the Mormon leaders), neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles (the Mormon leaders), shall be cut off from among the people;”

    In the Mormon temple “Initiatory”, Mitt and his wife have been “anointed to become Kings and Queens, Priests and Priestesses unto the m

  • Vanka

    What about civil rights?

    The one dissenting vote on this appeal was submitted by Judge N. Randy Smith, a MORMON, with degrees from the Mormon Church-owned Brigham Young University and its ersatz law school. Yes, Smith is a member of the same “religion” (read “cult”) of which Mitt Romney is a member!

    Smith practiced law (and never got it right) in his own private Idaho for a bunch of spud-diggers, taught as an adjunct instructor for some hick Idaho colleges, then joined the rinkydink law firm Merrill & Merrill. With ancestry going back to the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, this Mormon judge used his Mormon connections to get appointed by Bush to the Circuit Court.

    His joke of a dissenting opinion borrows wording from the Mormon Church’s homophobic “Proclamation on the Family”, and plagiarizes nonsense from BYU Law Professor (and I use those titles lightly) Lynn Wardle, that tries to equivocate gay relationships with “bestiality” and “sodomy”, and invokes an ancient, outdated, bigoted and FAILED argument and anti-sodomy law from the 1970′s from the State of Minnesota.

    Talk about a spud!

    These Mormons do not care about Democracy. They do not care about equality before the law. They do not care about due process. They only care about ONE THING: advancing the power of their cult!

  • Vanka

    Not only does Mormon theology, scripture, and revelation contain prophecies, predictions, and “commandments” for the Mormon Church to “roll forth” like a stone, cut from the mountain without hands, to “consume the whole earth”, but Mitt Romney and his wife have made some disturbing secret oaths in Mormon temples:

    In the Mormon temple “Initiatory”, Mitt and his wife have been “anointed to become Kings and Queens, Priests and Priestesses unto the most high God, to rule and reign in the House of Israel forever”. The temple worker said: “I pour this holy anointing oil upon your head, and anoint you preparatory to your becoming a King and a Priest unto the Most High God, hereafter to rule and reign in the House of Israel forever.”

    When they first went through the Mormon temple “Endowment”, Mitt and his wife not only re-enacted ceremonies and motions of “penalties” such as slashing their own throats and disemboweling themselves, if they should fail to keep secret the oaths they made, but they also made oaths such as:

    The Law of Obedience, where the women are placed under covenant to obey their husbands. Sexism anyone? Perhaps Gingrich could have kept a marriage together if he had an oath-based, patriarchal tyranny over his wife, too!

    The Law of Sacrifice:

    “And as Jesus Christ has laid down his life for the redemption of mankind, so we should covenant to sacrifice all that we possess, even our own lives if necessary, in sustaining and defending the Kingdom of God [the Mormon Church].”

    Do we really want a POTUS who will die for the Mormon Church? And who will sacrifice all he possesses for the Mormon Church? I don’t think so. The POTUS must have no higher priority and commitment than the United States of America!

    The Law of Consecration:

    “…you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and

  • RandyRW

    The real cult problem for Romney is the cult of Grover Norquist which religiously follows the mythology that continually cutting taxes will somehow balance the budget and stimulate job growth.

  • beaufordslyone

    Too often the LDS/Mormon church finds itself on the wrong side of history. They were the last of Christian churches to allow blacks full membership. They continue to only allow men in the highest ranks of the church. Women weren’t even allowed to speak to the general body of the church in General Conference until the 80s. They are still not allowed to hold the Mormon priesthood.

    Public opinion of the Mormon church places them squarely in the same religious realm of the Jehova’s Witnesses and Scientology. Is this opinion fair? Is it justified?

    I believe it is. I was raised in the Mormon church. I served a mission. My experience has taught me that Mormonism is an extremist religious group that has earned their label as a fringe religious organization.

    Will this hurt Mitt Romney?

    Most Americans know little to nothing about the Mormon church. The next six months will be an education. Many moderates and independents will find the sexism and homophobia repulsive. Others will be swayed by the documented racism of the Mormon church. The Mormon belief that American Indians were “cursed” with a dark skin because of wickedness will disgust many who deem this belief to be racism.

    Many other voters will consider the fantastic claims made by Mormon theology. For some, Mitt’s adherence to Mormonism shows a severe lack of judgement. Many of those that have investigated Mormonism find the claims of the Mormon beyond what any average American individual would consider rational.

    There will also be many extremely religious folks that will be offended by Mormonism’s claim to the the ONLY true church. They’ll be insulted by Joseph Smith’s account of his First Vision where God told Smith that all other churches were an abomination in His sight. They’ll discover quotes made by Mormon prophets that denigrate all other religions. These people will see electing Mitt as an endorsement of his religion. They will refuse to cast their vote Mitt’s way for that very reason.

    The fact is that

  • ccnl1

    STOP AND READ CAREFULLY !!!
    Romney believes that the horn-blowing angel Moroni appeared to the con artist Joe Smith. Not good for someone who wants to be president of any group !!!

    Obama “mouths” that he is Christian i.e. believes in gay Gabriel and war-mongering Michael the Archangel and Satan. BO’s support of abortion/choice however vitiates has Christianity as he is the leader of the Immoral Majority who are now the largest voting bloc in the country. Immoral Majority you ask??

    The 78 million voting “mothers and fathers” of aborted womb babies !!! (2012 -1973 Rowe vs. Wade = 39.
    39 x 2 million = 78 million. Abortion rate in the USA as per the CDC is one million/yr.

    And the presidential popular vote in 2008? 69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for “pro-life” JM. The population of the Immoral Majority in 2008? ~ 70 million !!!!!!

  • terriebittner

    Those bits of gossip have been out there to lure the gullable for centuries, but being old rumors doesn’t make them any more truthful. It is a dangerous thing to believe everything you are told. No violent actions in the temple–the penalties for breaking your promise to God are God’s spiritual penalties. A true Christian will be more heartbroken at having disappointed God than by any threat of violence. Learn how to vaildate sources–it’s an extraordinarily useful life skill and that includes learning how to identify an agenda and gossip.

  • terriebittner

    When you read the Bible, do you stop at Genesis, since everything else is added on revelation?

  • SODDI

    America has a religion problem. It seems that too many Americans have forgotten that we live in a PLURALISTIC society, not one bound to a single religious dogma.They want some kind of christian shariah law imposed on everyone.

    Last I looked, Romney was running for President, not mormon-in-chief.

  • haveaheart

    “But this year’s version is more worrisome as it suggests religious bigotry is alive and well in America.”

    Once again, the idiotic claims of religious bigotry are drowning out the issues and messages that voters should be looking at.

    I am not a religious bigot because I choose not to vote for a man who professes beliefs that are antithetical to my worldview.

    But . . .

    I would be a religious bigot if I tried to interfere with that man’s own right to vote for whomever he chooses.

    How is it that Americans have become so thick about what “religious freedom” really means?

    The Constitution protects and guarantees your right to practice any religion you wish (as long as it doesn’t involve bodily injury or mental duress to others). Your “right” to proselytize, however, is not protected. Your “right” to foist your belief system on society at large through purchased legislation is not protected. Your “right” to establish your “values” as those of the U.S. government is not protected.

    Whatever religion you adhere to, you are guaranteed only one right by our Constitution: the right to worship whatever deity you wish without encountering discrimination. That’s it. That’s all you get.

    Except, of course, for the tax dollars pouring into the coffers which enable the clergy to bite the hand that feeds it.

  • mwpalmer

    Let’s have an agreement, haveaheart. I will not think you are a religious bigot if you will not try to abridge what I say about or prohibit how I exercise my values and beliefs.

    Oops… too late.

  • dsawert11

    To Vanka
    It is so easy to misrepresent and exaggerate the beliefs of others particularly when you don’t know of what you speak; Vanka is one of those.
    “Stone cut out of a mountain” is a prediction by Daniel (2nd chapter) that both Protestants and Catholics identify with. The LDS say it is a prediction about them, other churches say the prediction is about their church.
    “Anointed Kings and Priest” This is a promise made to followers of Christ and is very biblical. See Rev.1:6, it reads: 6” And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen”
    “Wives obeying their Husbands” Paul teaches this principle in 5th chapter of Ephesians. The real intent of Paul’s teaching is harmony in marriage. Vanka forgot to mention the man’s part in the equation; that is the man is to give his life for his wife. And men were to love their wives as themselves. Not sexism but a plan where both give unselfishly.

    “Sacrifice all we possess” Christ also asked His followers to put him first and to follow after him. Nothing was more important. See Matthew 10:
    37 “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
    38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me”.

    “Consecrate Yourselves” Consecrating oneself to God and Christ is a very Christian thing to do. Catholic priests do so before entering service to their people. They give their time and talents for to progress the Catholic Church. The establishment of Zion is also a Christian theme. It means to Mormons a time of peace and love on the earth, when wars and poverty are done away with. We think it a pretty worthy goal.

    “World Domination”, what a twist of the truth! The bible plainly teaches that Christ will come again and bring in a millennial reign not of power and control but love and understanding.
    Many of the comments made here are nothing more than bigotry. To learn mo

  • dsawert11

    To Vanka
    It is so easy to misrepresent and exaggerate the beliefs of others particularly when you don’t know of what you speak; Vanka is one of those.
    “Stone cut out of a mountain” is a prediction by Daniel (2nd chapter) that both Protestants and Catholics identify with. The LDS say it is a prediction about them, other churches say the prediction is about their church.
    “Anointed Kings and Priest” This is a promise made to followers of Christ and is very biblical. See Rev.1:6, it reads: 6” And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen”
    “Wives obeying their Husbands” Paul teaches this principle in 5th chapter of Ephesians. The real intent of Paul’s teaching is harmony in marriage. Vanka forgot to mention the man’s part in the equation; that is the man is to give his life for his wife. And men were to love their wives as themselves. Not sexism but a plan where both give unselfishly.

    “Sacrifice all we possess” Christ also asked His followers to put him first and to follow after him. Nothing was more important. See Matthew 10:
    37 “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
    38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me”.

    “Consecrate Yourselves” Consecrating oneself to God and Christ is a very Christian thing to do. Catholic priests do so before entering service to their people. They give their time and talents for to progress the Catholic Church. The establishment of Zion is also a Christian theme. It means to Mormons a time of peace and love on the earth, when wars and poverty are done away with. We think it a pretty worthy goal.

    “World Domination”, what a twist of the truth! The bible plainly teaches that Christ will come again and bring in a millennial reign not of power and control but love and understanding.
    Many of the comments made here are nothing more than bigotry. To learn mo

  • thebobbob

    The only question is: Do White Southern Evangelicals hate Blacks more than they hate Mormons?? Maybe they should just stay home and not involve themselves in the profane acts of the secular voting booth.

  • persiflage

    Romney stays away from religion because he knows it’s toxic – we’lll never know how devoted he is to the peculiarities of Mormon superstition, which is seen as unorthodox by the voting majority.

    His qualifications for the presidency apparently rest on his performance as a Wall Street mogul and corporate downsizer, rather than as an elder in his church. His plans to run a superior government for the benefit of all the people remains a complete mystery – why would he do this, when money has always been his primary objective? In fact, he plans to lower the tax rate for the rich and for corporations.

    His qualifications as the anti-Obama candidate for president are as meagre now as they were in 2008 – absolutely nothing has changed. The general public would have to be stupid beyond belief to vote for this guy – religion is nothin more than a smokescreen. Rmoney believes in power and money, and nothing else whatsoever.

    Vote for him at your peril.

  • Romans13

    For what Mitt would be doing as “Puppet President” under the Tea Party(League of the South)/ United States of Grover Norquist Theocracy Coalition would be minimal and the great part for Mitt is that he would not have to think for himself. Like 270+ Oath/Pledge signers that currently OCCUPY seats in OUR House and Senate that have given their allegiance to a different entity than that of the US Gov. and the voters that elected them to office.
    Just like Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor and the other 270+ only act when, where and how Grover Norquist dictates them to. So will be the life Mitt is accustomed to.

    Surprisingly the Muslim (Grover Norquist) / Mormon (Mitt Romney) is the HOTTEST ticket in town with Evangelical, Jewish and Catholics alike in their support.

    WAKE UP AMERICA!!

  • fkratzor1

    I recently read Fawn Brodie’s “No Man Knows My History”, which offers a detailed look at the life of Joseph Smith and the early Mormon religion. I agree with your statement completely.

  • Secular1

    I am not a wifer, but can Willard prove to us that he does not have 5 wives? If he has only one wife how come he has five 30 year old sons?

  • leifs100

    I only worry about Romney being a Mormon if he hates as much as most of you have demonstrated. You may not like him but i see more Christian in him than most of you.
    Being Christian was suppose to change you fundamentally to a more loving creature – I don’t see it in you. Epic fail. ” By their fruits ye shall know them.” Would a real Christian please speak up.