(RNS) If Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney can secure the nomination, his Mormon faith shouldn’t be an obstacle for voters in the general election, according to a survey released Wednesday (Nov. 23).
That may be a big “if.” The survey from the Pew Research Center shows that white evangelical Protestants—the heart of the GOP primary electorate—are most likely to know Romney is a Mormon, and least likely to support him.
That news comes as polls show Newt Gingrich emerging as Romney’s chief rival for the nomination, and as the focus turns to the Iowa caucuses in early January. The state is dominated by the kind of conservative Christians who seem to view Romney’s Mormonism with suspicion.
The new Pew survey of 1,576 registered voters, conducted from Nov. 9-14, shows that while 54 percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican believe Mormons are Christian, just 35 percent of white evangelicals agree with that statement.
Some 53 percent of white evangelicals say Mormonism is not Christian. Just 17 percent of them say they back Romney in the primaries, as opposed to 23 percent of all GOP voters.
On the other hand, the poll also shows that evangelical opposition to President Obama is strong. Nearly 9 in 10 of those who say Mormons are not Christians would back Romney over Obama.
Romney’s “religion has implications for his nomination run but not for the general election, should he be nominated as his party’s standard-bearer,” the Pew report says.
Overall, views about Mormonism have remained stable since 2007, with about half of Americans saying they know something about Mormonism and the other half saying they don’t know much about it.