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Posted on Tue, Nov 15, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

Mitt Romney's candidacy: Would you be comfortable voting for a Mormon president?

By Wayne Baker

Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week, Dr. Baker is discussing important findings from the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2011 American Values Survey.

1114 OV Mitt Romney campaigning.jpg

Mitt Romney on the campaign trail.

Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons.

What does the “Mormon Question” mean for the viability of Mitt Romney’s candidacy?

You might be surprised, based on a just-released report from the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2011 American Values Survey. I won’t give it away right here — but I will tell you at the end of today’s post. I want you to think about this for a moment.

All this week we’ll cover some of the most fascinating — and possibly surprising — findings from this annual survey.

What is this so-called Mormon Question?
At issue is whether Americans would vote for a candidate, such as Romney, who is part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There’s also a Muslim Question, an Atheist Question and even an Evangelical Question. There used to be a Black Question, but Obama’s election answered that one.

So, let’s get right to the point: Would you be comfortable or uncomfortable with a Mormon president? If you feel comfortable with the idea, then you are in the majority. Just over half of voters (53 percent) said they would be somewhat or very comfortable with a Mormon as president. But if you said uncomfortable, you also have plenty of company — 42 percent said they would be somewhat or very uncomfortable.

More Democrats feel uncomfortable (50 percent) than Republicans (36 percent) or Independents (38 percent) with the idea of a Mormon president. But even more Democrats (70 percent) and more Republicans (80 percent) are uncomfortable with an atheist in the highest office. A majority of Independents (56 percent) would also be uncomfortable with a nonbeliever in the Oval Office. Religion is a still a prerequisite for election to the American presidency.

Ok, what does this mean for Mitt Romney?

The answer is: We don’t know yet. At this point, only 42 percent of Americans correctly identify his religion as Mormon, according to the PRRI survey. This figure hasn’t changed since the summer. The only group with a majority who correctly identify his religion is white evangelical Protestants — and it's a slim majority of that group within the poll (53 percent).

Americans with higher levels of formal education are more likely to correctly identify the former Massachusetts governor’s religious affiliation, compared to those with lower levels. A majority of Republicans (52 percent) can identify Romney’s religious affiliation, but only a little more than a third of Democrats also know (36 percent).

This translates into a lot of uncertainty about what the Mormon Question means for Romney’s candidacy. If he wins the Republican primaries and becomes the GOP candidate, he will come under more scrutiny and more Americans would be able to correctly identify his religion. For some that knowledge would turn into a "no" for Romney, but for others it would turn into "yes." And, one might hope, for a large number of Americans, his qualifications for office would be all that really matters.

Would you be comfortable or uncomfortable with a Mormon president?

Will there be a time when religion is no longer a factor in elections?

Please add a comment below...
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Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

Dr. Wayne E. Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at or on Facebook.



Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

Before he started fleeing from his own respectable record as Mass. governor this particular Mormon was a credible presidential candidate, although I'd still have voted for any credible opponant in the other party. But he's now sold out the "teaparty ' which is far more unacceptable than Mormonism per se.. Noone who runs and would put their faith ahead of the secular public laws/constitution is a proper candidate.


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

I left out the word 'to' ( as in ' sold out TO the teaparty')... sorry...turkey -based tryptophan still kickin' in). I wish he WOULD sell out the teaparty though


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

The attributes I desire in a president are: 1) An understanding of business and economics. 2) A moral/honest person who believes in family strength with a mother and father in the home. 3) A good communicator. 4) Sufficient government experience to recognize the limitations of government. 5) One who respects states rights. 6) One who respects and yes.... who loves and has pride in this nation. 7) One who is pro life and pro marriage. To me, Mitt Romney, measures up to my standards.

Tex Treeder

Mon, Nov 28, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

I wonder if you also voted for George W. Bush. Let's see: 1. Fail 2. Fail 3. Absolutely fail 4. Fail 5. Hard to tell. Probably agreed when he was governor, but ignored them as president. I'm calling this a "Fail" based on massive expansion of the federal bureaucracy and intrusion into civil rights and privacy during the Bush presidency. 6. Another hard one to decide. I'll go with "Success" on this one, although I'd qualify Bush's patriotism and pride as more nationalistic than anything else. 7. "Success" on this one, too. Which way Romney will flip-flop on these issues remains to be seen. Of the seven issues listed above, I think he's had 11 opinions, maybe 12.

Wayne Baker

Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 5:34 p.m.

Thank you all for your comments!

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 3:23 a.m.

"There used to be a Black Question, but Obama's election answered that one." That also took care of the zero-qualifications question.

Joseph Smith

Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 3:19 a.m.

Mitt has proven worthy of his position, and is an all round great man.... To the White House already, Let's get to work on the real issues.... Best wishes, happy holidays...


Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 3:19 a.m.

I am embarrassed for our country about the atheist disapproval numbers.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:47 a.m.

Praise the lord and pass the ammunition.