The LA Times commissioned a poll and found that:
54% of Americans would not vote for a Muslim
37% of Americans would not vote for a Mormon
21% of Americans would not vote for an evangelical Christian
15% of Americans would not vote for a Jew
10% of Americans would not vote for a Roman Catholic
This is relevant because Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is running for president (all but officially). The fact that is that even if 37% is a high water mark of rejection (I suspect it is, and that some voters would warm to Romney as they got to know the person as opposed to the perception of his religion), Romney basically has a zero shot with these numbers at being nominated. I say nominated very carefully, because a Romney hack points to the fact that as much as 1/3 of Americans stated they would not vote for John F. Kennedy because of his religion. The Democrats had already had a trial run with a Roman Catholic candidate, Al Smith, so they had some talking points ready to go. Nevertheless, the key difference between Romney and Kennedy is that Kennedy started with a large Roman Catholic base within his own party, and the hostility was from the predominantly WASP old guard in the opposition party. People point to Romney's success in Massachusetts, an overwhelmingly Democratic and predominantly Roman Catholic state, as evidence he can transcend his religion, but the lesson is irrelevant because the greatest locus of hostility toward Mormonism is from conservative fundamentalist Protestant Christians, who are generally Republicans. The analogy to John F. Kennedy doesn't work because he started from a large proportion of the electorate on his side due to religion (25% of Americans were Roman Catholic), while only 2-3% of Americans are Mormon. Even though Mormons are overwhelmingly Republican, they are dwarfed in influence and numbers by fundamentalist Protestants who very hostile to their religion.
I think Romney has a John McCain problem: he is more appealing to the overall electorate (as a moderate center-right candidate with charisma) than he is to the hard-core of the Republican party. I'll convert to Mormonism if he gets nominated.
The poll left out another important grop. In 1999, 49% of people said that they would not, under any circumstances, vote for an atheist.
Hell, in Texas, atheists are actually legally barred from holding office:
The Bill of Rights of the Texas Constitution (Article I, Section 4) allows people to be excluded from holding office on religious grounds. An official may be "excluded from holding office" if she/he does not "acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being."
I doubt it'd stand up to a court challenge, but it amazes me that this law has been in place for so long. Why? Because atheists don't even bother to run for office in this kind of oppressive climate.
If Ernest Istook can get elected to Congress as a Republican in Oklahoma of all places, I am not sure that the Morman factor would be that big of a deal. Indeed any candidate that brings it up would put himself in serious trouble. Nor can the party itself dare to appear anti-Morman: it would turn off many voters and they know it. And they know the religious right will not vote for a Democrat in any event. No doubt that many will not vote for him. But then agian, all candidates will have "problems" which will hurt them with a some group of voters. I think the "John McCain problem" is far more significant.
If Ernest Istook can get elected to Congress as a Republican in Oklahoma of all places, I am not sure that the Morman factor would be that big of a deal.
this a good point, but weakened by the fact that many americans do not know who their rep. is, or value that position much (special interests do, but that's a different point). for example, dalip signh saund won a seat from california in the early 1960s, but even then, it might be a stretch to say that a sikh would have been able to win the governorship of that state, no?
Nor can the party itself dare to appear anti-Morman: it would turn off many voters and they know it
it doesn't need too. i lived in a town that was 1/2 mormon and 1/4 evangelical christian, there is an enormous literary subculture of anti-mormonism generated by the latter. the sentiment is there, it doesn't need to be generated de novo.
And they know the religious right will not vote for a Democrat in any event. No doubt that many will not vote for him. But then agian, all candidates will have "problems" which will hurt them with a some group of voters. I think the "John McCain problem" is far more significant.
michael, it seems to be that you are playing a shell game here. of course all candidates will have some problems with some groups. but, having a problem with, for example, buddhists in the republican party is less of an issue than having problems with evangelical christians in the republican party. the key issue here is turnout, not that said voters will switch to the democratic party (though some might if they get convinced that romney is a tool of the anti-christ as some of the looney fringe will claim). in the early 1990s an anti-gay measure in idaho failed because the group promoting it was an evangelical outfit which had also sold many anti-mormon videos. mormons sat out.
as voters get to know romney better they will see him as a person and not imagine polygamy as concordant with mormonism (a common misperception). but, the evangelicals among them will also find out that mormonism is not monotheistic (it is henotheistic), that it tends to reject christian metaphysics (god is a physical being) and that god also has a consort (the holy mother). i think the factors will be a wash and you'll stay pretty fixed in terms of ambivalence and hostlity.
Mitt's dad, George Romney, was gov of Michigan and made a run for president -- back around the time of Goldwater's run, I believe. I seem to recall that his religion was a bit of an issue. I also recall that some people suggested that since he was born while his parents were out of the US (on a mission?), he was not eligible to be president. People who don't like a candidate will use anything at hand to knock him/her down -- fling it at the wall and see what sticks. (I was not a Romney fan.)
I think I probably should clarify a few things on my previous comment. In Oklahoma, if the fundamentalist and/or evangelical Christians don't like a candidate, they will not get a Republican nomination and it will not even be close. Ernest Istook is a Mormon and is rather well known that he is one. And yet he is a darling of the religious right. Tim LaHay has endorsed him. Just look at his endorsements
for his campaign for governor. He is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination. Thad Balkman is one of Oklahoma's crusaders against evolution is also a Mormon and popular with the far right of the religous right.
The leaders of the religous right can be enthusiastic about electing Mormons and they easily get Republican nominations and easily get elected in a state that is extremely red and about as strong a conservative Christian state that there is. Oklahoma is as hard a test there could be for Mormons and the result is: very little problem. Results on the ground are far better indicators than any polling data.
And then comes a potential problem for Republicans. They can't afford any perception that they have problems with Mormons. It is not just for independents who will vote against clear religious bigotry. Utah and the Mormons are reliably in the Republican fold. Do the Republicans want to risk the Mormons' enthusiastic support?
Also times have changed, even for most of the nutters. The religious right, when in politics, cares far more about abortion, school prayer, evolution, etc. then they care about someone being Catholic or Mormon -- something that would been a show stopper a few decades ago. I might also point out that the extreme anti-Mormonism of your small town evangelical christian might is probably related to being in the middle of Mormon territory.
yes, your points about ok. are relevant, but, the question is: does this scale to the presidential scale? e.g., there 10 jewish senators, but few jewish candidates for president. or, roman catholics have been about 25% of america's population for a century, but only one president over the past century has been catholic. in other words, the presidency selects for the most "vanilla" individual possible, which is still white protestant (something mormons are not in the eyes of others).
Results on the ground are far better indicators than any polling data.
matt salmon's loss in arizona is in part attributed to the marginal losses on the edge of his potential supporters because of his mormonism.
the essential point is this: is there going to be no non-mormon alternative to mitt romney who can synthesize his combination of wholesome moderate conservatism, personal charisma and competence? i doubt it.
Why do they dislike mormons ? Too non-conformist for the Nonconformists ?
mostly, because mormons claim to be christians, and most other christian groups do not accept mormons as christians (e.g., only a few non-mormon churches accept mormon baptisms as valid).