Evangelicals Reject Mitt . . . Until It’s Him or Obama


Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, has a problem with evangelical Christians. They don’t think he’s one of them, they don’t much like him, and where they constitute more than half the population of Republican primary voters, they vote for someone else, usually Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic extremist.

But don’t be fooled. Romney’s problem with evangelicals is an issue only in the GOP primary. Once he wins the Republican nomination, evangelicals (including fundamentalists, Pentacostals and other charismatic Christians) will vote for Romney over President Barack Obama, whom they regard as a secular humanist at best and an Allah-worshiping Muslim at worst.

Evangelical Christians, especially white evangelical Christians, despise Obama more than they dislike Mormonism.

The rift between Romney and evangelicals was mostly a whisper until last October, when the Rev. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at First Baptist Church Dallas, casually noted that, Mitt Romney is a good moral person but he’s not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.”

As Calbuzz noted back then, Jeffress was merely reflecting a view that had been etched in stone in the Christian Workers Handbook, given as a guide book to counselors at Billy Graham Crusades for decades.

Moroni from Palmyra: Face it, just for starters, if you believe that the Bible is the inerrant work of God, you might be a bit skeptical about folks who follow the teachings of Joseph Smith Jr., the treasure digger from Palmyra, NY, who said he was visited by the angel Moroni in 1827 and guided to a box of golden plates which he said contained what is now known as the Book of Mormon, after he transcribed them from “reformed Egyptian.”

According to the Pew Research Center, Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say the Mormon religion is Christian by a ratio of 54-33%. But among Republicans and leaners who are white evangelical Protestants, it’s the opposite: just 35% say Mormonism is Christian and 53% say it’s not.

The effect is clear. As our old friend EJ Dionne noted the other day, “In 16 of the states that had voted before Illinois, exit pollsters asked whether voters were white evangelical or born-again Christians. In the states that went for Santorum, evangelicals averaged 71% of the electorate. In the states Romney won, they averaged only 33% of the electorate (and only 31% if Virginia is excluded). In both states Newt Gingrich carried, evangelicals made up 64% of the vote.”

Here’s a nifty chart from the Washington Post:





















Christians in California: Looking forward to the California GOP primary, the USC/Los Angeles Times Poll found (in special crosstabs they graciously ran for Calbuzz) that while Romney leads Santorum 42-23% overall (with Newt Gingrich at 12% and Ron Paul at 10%), among evangelical voters it’s Santorum over Romney 40-33% and among white evangelical voters it’s  Santorum 41-35% over Romney.

But when they tested a general election simulation, with Romney against Obama – finding Obama winning 59-37% overall – among evangelical voters it was Romney over Obama 76-22% and among white evangelical voters it was Romney 82-18% over Obama. That’s about the same margin evangelicals would give to Santorum over Obama – 77-21% — and about the same vote white evangelicals would give to Santorum – 82-18% — over Obama.

In other words, evangelical voters in California will vote for the Republican candidate against Obama (even if it’s Gingrich 71-24% or Paul 68-27%).

In part, this is because 60% of the evangelical voters and 65% of the white evangelicals are registered Republicans. But party registration – normally the most powerful predictor of vote — only explains part of the vote in the general election. For example, while 65% of the white evangelicals are Republicans, 82% of the white evangelicals say they would vote for Romney over Obama.

It’s possible that Romney could lose some of the evangelical vote in the general election by sidling away from the conservative positions he has staked out on abortion, women’s rights, gay marriage and other social issues as he tries to appear more moderate for the general electorate.

But there’s little evidence in polling to suggest that evangelical voters would sit back and let Obama walk away with the contest. Consider favorability, as reported by USC/LAT in our special Calbuzz crosstabs.

Overall, Obama enjoys a favorable/unfavorable rating in California of 62/36%. But among evangelicals it’s 24/71% unfavorable and among white evangelicals it’s 19/75% unfavorable.

Meanwhile, Romney, whose overall rating is 27/47% unfavorable, enjoys a 54/28% favorable rating among evangelicals and a 57/30% favorable among white evangelicals. Not quite as good as Santorum’s 64/15% among evangelicals and 71/14% among white evangelicals. But good enough.

As California, so goes the nation: The findings in California reflect that Pew has found nationally. They reported:

There is no evidence that Romney’s Mormon faith would prevent rank-and-file Republicans, including white evangelicals, from coalescing around him if he wins the GOP nomination. Rather, the same Republicans who may have doubts about Romney’s faith are among the most vehement opponents of Barack Obama. Fully 91% of white evangelical Republican voters say they would back Romney over Obama in a general election matchup, and 79% would support Romney strongly. Overall, white evangelicals would be among the strongest Romney supporters if he is the GOP nominee challenging Obama next fall.

Bottom line: Evangelical voters don’t much like the Mormon. But they hate Obama even more.

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There are 6 comments for this post

  1. avatar smoker1 says:

    This is probably the first case when the electoral college is going to work against the Republicans. Obama will be crushed in the Bible Belt, losing Mississippi, Louisiana and Oklahoma by 30 or 40 points. But he will win the swing states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia by a comfortable margin. I think he will win in the electoral college by a wider margin than 2008 but the popular vote will be very close.

  2. If Conservative Christians would do their own research, instead of accepting the biased views of their preachers, they would realize Mormons’ theology is based on New Testament Christianity, not the preachers’ Fourth Century Creeds. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views on Baptism, Lay Ministry, the Trinity, Theosis, Grace vs. Works, the Divinity of Jesus Christ are closer to Early Christianity than any other denomination. And Mormons’ teenagers have been judged to “top the charts” in Christian Characteristics by a UNC-Chapel Hill study. Read about it here:


    According to a 2012 Pew Forum poll of members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) 98 percent said they believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and 97 percent say their church is a Christian religion. Mormons have a better understanding of Christianity than any other denomination, according to a 2010 Pew Forum poll:


    11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (including several presidents) were non-Trinitarian Christians. Those who now insist on their narrow Trinitarian and salvation-only- by-grace definition of Christianity for candidates for public office are doing our Republic an injustice.

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      Some of the signers of the Declaration of Independence weren’t even Christian. And some of the presidents weren’t either. So I can hardly disagree with your last paragraph.

      In your zeal to portray Mormons as Christians, however, you’ve made an obvious mistake. The reason the rather lengthy name of that church is often abbreviated “LDS” as you did, is that the full name is The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. It’s the last, LDS, part that most other churches have issue with. As Calbuzz points out, if you believe the Bible is the perfect word of God (and I don’t see how anybody who’s actually read it could think that), then you have a problem with a guy come has his own angel and wants to modify the Good Book. Of course, most of them don’t know that the first half of their book was cribbed from the Jews. Or that various synods have rewritten it over the centuries, leaving out whole books they found inconvenient. And that biblical scholars are still arguing about the accuracy of “standard” translations from the original languages. So, given that history, I can’t see why they’re so against a little more tinkering with the thing. Unlike most Christians I know, I have actually read the book in question, and the Book of Mormon. I find both equally inconsistent and irrational.

      Which I guess explains why I’m not a Christian, or a Mormon.

  3. avatar GeoHagop says:

    The “ehite evangelicals” are followers of the great and powerful “eh,” I gather.

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