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U.S. voters uncomfortable with Mormon president

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, June 8, 2011 8:12 EDT
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WASHINGTON (AFP) – US voters are uncomfortable with the idea of a president who is a Mormon, even as former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, leads the pack of Republican presidential hopefuls, a poll found.

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey however showed that Romney would lose 41-47 percent in a head-to-head election with Barack Obama, contrary to the results of a Washington Post/ABC News poll out Tuesday that showed Romney narrowly defeating the president.

According to the Quinnipiac poll, only 45 percent of registered voters had a favorable view of Mormonism, while 32 percent had an unfavorable view of the faith. Only atheists and Muslims had less support in the survey.

US voters apparently “have many more questions about a Mormon in the White House than they do about followers of other religions,” Peter Brown with the Quinnipiac pollsters.

“And most don’t see much similarity between their religion and Mormonism,” he said.

Many conservative Christians see Mormonism as a cult or a heresy.

The Republican Party’s base includes a strong contingent of conservative evangelical Christians that would presumably vote against a Mormon — yet according to the Quinnipiac poll, the Democrats are least tolerant.

Sixty-eight percent of Republicans surveyed are comfortable with a Mormon president against only 49 percent of Democrats, according to the poll.

Among those who were Republicans or could vote Republican, Romney was ahead in the field with 25 percent support, followed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin with 15 percent.

Romney announced his candidacy last week, but Palin has not said if she will run.

They were followed by businessman Howard Cain who polled at nine percent; former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Representative Ron Paul, both at eight percent; Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann at six percent; former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty at five percent, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum at four percent.

The only other Mormon presidential hopeful, Republican Jon Huntsman, has one percent support. Another 20 percent of those Republicans surveyed were undecided.

“The fact that less than half of voters have a favorable view of the religion is likely to be a political issue that Governor Mitt Romney, and should his campaign catch on, Governor Jon Huntsman, will have to deal with as they pursue the White House,” said Brown.

Millionaire businessman Romney lost his party’s presidential nomination to Senator John McCain in 2008.

The May 31-June 6 poll surveyed 1,946 registered voters. The survey has a plus or minus margin of error of 2.2 percentage points, and plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for the Republican primary.

Mormonism originated in the 1820s in western New York state. It is the main religious tradition of the Latter Day Saint movement founded by Joseph Smith, Jr.

Agence France-Presse
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