Voters' views of Mormonism still hamper Romney's campaign

May 22, 2012

Mitt Romney's religion was a major stumbling block for his 2008 presidential aspirations, and remains so for his candidacy in 2012, according to David Campbell at the University of Notre Dame. Real time voter analysis of the 2008 primaries reveals that while the social barriers of race and gender were largely overcome during the last US presidential campaign, religious affiliation (in this case, the Church of Latter Day Saints) is still a significant hurdle. A new article in Springer's journal, Political Behavior, suggests that a "stained glass ceiling" remains an obstacle to Mitt Romney's 2012 bid for the White House.

Campbell's paper – split into four sections – examines why Romney was unable to break the religion barrier in 2008. The first part of the article describes the attitudes of Americans towards Mormons – an important example of a religious 'out-group'. The research finds that the religion remains unpopular and mysterious because of the relative social insularity of Mormons. Part two reviews published work to establish how Romney's faith might have worked against him in 2008, and the third section reveals voter-survey data that supports these findings. Finally, part four looks at the implications of these findings for the 2012 election, and for the future of religious tolerance in the US.

Campbell and colleagues find that voters who have no personal exposure to Mormons are most likely to be persuaded by both negative and positive information about Mormon faith, while voters who have sustained personal contact with Mormons are the least likely to be persuaded either way. Voters with moderate contact, however, react strongly to negative information about the religion, but are not persuaded by opposing positive information. This last group of voters is the most problematic from Romney's perspective.

In the researchers' view, Romney failed to overcome the limitations on his candidacy based on his religion, in part because of the unpopularity of Mormons. These attitudes are driven largely by a lack of social contact between Mormons and other Americans, and in part because that low level of interaction allowed negative messages about Romney's religion to dissuade from supporting him, even when provided with opposing information.

The researchers conclude, "Given that the general perception of Mormons has not changed since 2008, and that there is no reason to think that Americans are more likely to have Mormons as close friends and family now, our results suggest that Romney's will remain a potential political stumbling block in this , too."

Explore further: Unconscious racial attitudes playing large role in 2012 presidential vote

More information: Campbell DE et al (2012). The stained glass ceiling: social contact and Mitt Romney's 'religion problem'. Political Behavior; DOI 10.1007/s11109-012-9200-6

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2.3 / 5 (3) May 22, 2012
The Obama campaign probably knows this, and no doubt their decision to put his religion off limits was a result.

By allowing the state as is re: public perceptions of Mormonism to persist without making any effort to spread the word positively or negatively, Team Obama chooses the strongest position in regard to this issue.

They allow Mormonism to remain "mysterious" to the vast majority, which makes them more likely to turn against it as various tidbits of information regarding Mormonism seeps out during the campaign.

This will be exacerbated by Romney's response or more likely lack of one other than blanket condemnations of them.

Recent comments re: magic underwear in the media have yet to be explained by the candidate, which leaves it in the hands of opponents to do so for him.

Mormonism has many such "odd" elements from the "perspective of mainstream religions". All of which can easily turn into negative feelings.

5 / 5 (1) May 23, 2012
At least he doesn't believe that a science fiction writer can make up an absurd story about the human population coming from another planet and for it to become magically true, but believing that some God could impregnate his own mother is not far off that.

Why do Americans applaud collective psychosis (in the form of religious mythology)? Is it something in the drinking water over there??
1 / 5 (2) May 23, 2012
methinks Mitt's puppeting of Obama policies of endless wars - bending backwards for bank fraud and love of dimishining of individual rites to be of more importance - this is just a distraction to make sheeple think there is a choice - well if there is a god that choice would be Ron Paul

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