So the Los Angeles Times has a great idea for a poll, and interviews 1,321 adults about whether religious views would affect their votes in the presidential election. And this is very interesting right now because Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and making a bid for the presidency. So what did the Times find?
Thirty-seven percent of those questioned said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, and 54% said no to the prospect of a Muslim in the White House.
In addition, 21% said they could not vote for an evangelical Christian.
Fifteen percent said they would not vote for a Jewish presidential candidate, and 10% were unwilling to cast ballots favoring a Catholic chief executive.
While this poll result may not be terribly surprising -- American voters have expressed their uneasiness about voting for Mormons previously -- that 37 percent is a huge number. It would be great to break that number down and learn a bit more about why so many voters are disinclined toward anonymous Mormons. Is it Mormons' belief in a multiple godhead? Is it their history with polygamy? Is it Orrin Hatch's music? But the report takes rather a view from 50,000 feet, interviewing political consultants, academics and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Here are the nut graphs dealing with religious beliefs:
A great-grandfather had five wives, but the church now opposes polygamy, as does Romney. The Mormon Church has about 12.5 million members worldwide, according to the church website; a little under half are in the U.S.
Romney is reticent about his religion, citing privacy and contending that candidates should not be judged on their "brand of faith." But he regularly describes himself as a Christian, saying, "Jesus Christ is my savior."
Some branches of Christianity do not embrace the Mormon Church. On its website, the Southern Baptist Convention includes Mormonism in a section called "cults, sects and new religious movements." Kenyn Cureton, a vice president of the Baptist convention, says his church does not regard Mormons as Christians.
"They are not orthodox in their beliefs," Cureton said. "They have additional books that they add to the Bible, which evangelical Christians believe is God's word. They believe that there are many, many gods and that you too can become a god in your own world. It sounds good, but unfortunately it is not based on sound teaching."
Cureton praised Mormons as "very moral, very family-oriented people." Southern Baptists, he said, "would appreciate that angle. But as far as our beliefs, we would have disagreements."
Those paragraphs are a bit inadequate. The poll did not specifically measure whether Christian voters would only vote for fellow Christians. However, if the sample size represents the American electorate, which is three-quarters Christian, it's obvious from the poll that some Christians would vote for a non-Christian Jew but would not vote for a Mormon. So pointing out that most Christians (or "some branches" as our reporter puts it) don't recognize Mormon beliefs as Christian (or "embrace the Mormon Church," as she puts it) doesn't in any way illuminate the poll. It is conceivable, for instance, that some Southern Baptists would believe that Mormons are not Christian and at the same time vote for Romney. There is no inherent conflict there.
Again, what is it about Mormons or voters that yields this poll result? Unfortunately, the survey doesn't ask and this report fails to answer the question.