The comments were reported Wednesday in a Journal article by Jon Gillooly, giving the views of several Cobb state legislators about the Iowa caucus results. Afteward, Rep. Manning, a supporter of Newt Gingrich for president, said on Facebook: “I sincerely apologize to Mitt Romney and for offending people of Mormon faith.”
The story quickly gained legs around the country and here in Cobb with a flood of blogs decrying Manning’s comments which have not been explained by her, apology notwithstanding.
This leads us to the question: To what extent is a candidate’s faith an issue in this presidential campaign, harking back to the 1960 race when John F. Kennedy successfully faced the issue and became the first Catholic to be elected president.
In answer to the question, it happens that Gallup has just released its findings on the influence of religion in the elections this year. An aggregate of 11,405 Republicans and Republican/leaning independents provided “the basis for a detailed look at the relationship between Republicans’ own religion and the religion of the GOP candidates” for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination.
“Religion,” says Gallup, “is a major differentiating factor in the broad scope of American politics today, with highly religious Americans significantly more likely to identify as Republicans and less likely to identify as Democrats than those who are less religious. Additionally, Americans who identify with a non-Christian faith or who have no religious identity at all are significantly more likely to be Democrats than the national average.”
As for Romney’s Mormon faith, Gallup says the polling confirms overwhelming support for him from fellow Mormons nationwide. But Mormons make up only about two percent of American adults and four percent of Republicans nationally.
As for the possible effect of Romney’s faith “on the vote of highly religious non-Mormons, a much larger voting bloc,” Gallup found: “The current data show that highly religious Protestants do give Romney slightly lower support than he gets among all Republicans, although the five-point difference is not huge.” It comes down to 18 percent support for Romney from weekly church attendees versus 23 percent for all Republicans and leaners.
Gallup also found that Republicans with no religious identity disproportionately favor Ron Paul, but Catholic Republicans “were no more likely than average to support the two Catholics in the GOP race, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.” Moreover, Protestant Republicans “did not disproportionately support any particular candidate,” including the two Protestant candidates: Ron Paul, raised a Methodist and now occasionally attending a Baptist church; and Rick Perry, raised a Methodist and now attending a non-denominational evangelical Protestant church. Candidate Jon Huntsman is also a Mormon.
The good news: Gallup’s data indicate that Romney’s faith is not a significant issue among Republicans.