WASHINGTON — Republican voters are uneasy about White House hopeful Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, but not enough to hurt him in a general election battle with President Barack Obama, according to a survey out Wednesday.
Romney’s steady support in the polls and fundraising prowess have fed expectations he will win the party’s nomination, but political analysts have regularly questioned whether his religion might be a drag on his ambitions.
Fully 53 percent of white evangelical Protestants — a core Republican constituency with clout in the first-in-the-nation Iowa nomination battle — say Mormonism is not a Christian faith, and 15 percent say it would make them less likely to support Romney, according to a Pew Research poll.
But in a match-up against Obama, those same voters become Romney’s staunchest supporters, with 91 percent saying they will back him and 79 percent vowing to support him “strongly” over the embattled Democratic incumbent.
Among all Republicans questioned in the survey, those numbers were 87 percent and 71 percent, suggesting that the very same Republicans most critical of Romney’s faith would ultimately be his staunchest backers.
The former Massachusetts governor is not the only Mormon in the race for the Republican nod to take on Obama in the November 2012 elections: Former US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, polled 2,001 adults, including 1,576 registered voters Nov 9-14, with error margins varying among subgroups.
Among all Republican or Republican-leaning voters, it was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, while for white evangelical Protestants it was plus or minus 6.5 percentage points.
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