More than a third of U.S. voters have some qualms about a Mormon president, even as Republicans prefer former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney over other presidential candidates, according to a new poll.
The survey by Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University found 36 percent of registered voters saying they were “somewhat” or “entirely uncomfortable” with a presidential candidate who was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Romney, who announced his candidacy June 2, is a Mormon, as is former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination.
The poll also found that 45 percent of voters viewed the Mormon religion favorably, while 32 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion.
“The fact that less than half of voters have a favorable view of the religion is likely to be a political issue” for Romney and Huntsman, said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
According to the poll, atheists and Muslims would face the biggest hurdles in a White House run. The poll reported that 60 percent of voters said they would be somewhat or entirely uncomfortable with an atheist who sought the presidency, and 59 percent expressed that view about a Muslim. Among other religions, 18 percent expressed some discomfort with a Catholic presidential candidate, 15 percent with a Jew, and 26 percent with an evangelical Christian, according to the poll.
In Quinnipiac’s polling of Republicans and Republican- leaning independents, Romney led with 25 percent. “He has opened up some daylight on the field,” Brown said.
Running second, with 15 percent, was former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee, who has been coy about whether she will seek the White House. All of the other announced or prospective Republican candidates were in single digits.
Romney, 64, also polled strongest among Republicans in matchups against President Barack Obama. He is trailing Obama, 47 percent to 41 percent, in the survey. Obama led Palin, 53 percent to 36 percent.
The May 31-June 6 poll of 1,946 registered voters has an margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points for its entire survey. The portion focused on the Republican presidential race interviewed 830 voters and had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.
Romney is making his second try for the Republican nomination. When running four years ago, he discussed his faith in a December 2007 speech that sought to allay concerns some might have about his religion. He said all U.S. churches “share a common creed of moral convictions.”
Some Mormon teachings differ from those of other Christian denominations. Mormons say that the Christian church fell from the truth and that it is being restored “in the latter days” through modern-day prophets, starting in 1820 with Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS church.
A 2006 Bloomberg-Los Angeles Times poll conducted as Romney was gearing up his previous run found that 35 percent of registered voters said they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon for president.