- (Photo: Reuters / Joshua Roberts, Molly Riley)
A recent survey reveals that 86 percent of American voters are confused when it comes to Mormons and polygamy, which could place the campaign of two presidential contenders in jeopardy.
In response to the question "Do Mormons practice polygamy?" 15 percent of the 905 voters polled answered "definitely yes;" 31 percent responded "probably yes;" 14 percent responded "definitely no;" 18 percent responded "probably no;" and 22 percent had no opinion.
Although Mormons found to be in polygamous relationships are excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the confusion could hurt the two Mormon Republicans competing for the 2012 presidential nomination: Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.
Romney and Hunstman could suffer at the polls "especially if less knowledgeable voters turn out," the leading researcher in the survey claims.
According to the poll conducted by Lawrence Research, director Gary Lawrence, a Mormon and author of Mormons Believe ... What?! said, "The accurate answer about polygamy is 'Yes we did and no we don't.'"
Despite ongoing clarifications, Lawrence says, many people, especially the less religious ones and those under 45, continue to associate Romney and Huntsman's religion with polygamist groups.
Of those who correctly answered that Mormons do not practice polygamy, 39 percent would definitely consider voting for one, compared to an average 26 percent among the remaining participants.
A whopping 83 percent of the voters who know that Mormons do not practice polygamy would vote for a well-qualified nominee of their party who happens to be a Mormon.
"Should this 120-year confusion be cleared up, there is no question that it would help both men [Romney, Huntsman]," Lawrence said in a press release.
"We reject the concept of a multi-group Mormon faith family," said Dr. Lawrence. "Today's polygamists are not Mormons and Mormons are not polygamists. Our members bristle when the media or opinion leaders mistake one group for the other."
Much of the confusion stems from breakaway groups that practice polygamy and claim to be part of a Mormon faith community, Dr. Lawrence complained.
During 40 years of his work as a public opinion pollster, Lawrence says he has heard many misconceptions about Mormons personally, from claims that "Mormons aren't Christians," through "Mormons believe Jesus and Satan are brothers," and to "Mormons wear magical underwear."
Lawrence says he decided to address these misconceptions in his book, which will be released on September 22.
For the survey, 1,000 adults including 905 registered voters were randomly telephoned from July 6-13, 2011. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points.