Analysis: Churchgoing Protestants Not Fond of Romney

WASHINGTON – Churchgoing Protestants generally view presidential hopeful Mitt Romney less favorably than other Republican candidates, noted a newly released analysis of recent polls.

Data from February and March Gallup polls found 37 percent of churchgoing Protestant saying they would not vote for a qualified Mormon candidate, such as Romney, for president – a value markedly higher than the 26 percent of all Protestants and the 22 percent of all Americans who gave the same response.

Notably, many Protestants do not consider Mormonism part of the Christian faith, with some even denouncing it as a cult.

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In February, a Gallup poll showed that 52 percent of Protestants had a negative view of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon church is officially called, but the unfavorable response increased to 64 percent among Protestants who attended church weekly. Both Protestant values are much higher than the 22 percent of all Americans who responded negatively to Mormonism.

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, will face an uphill battle to win the Republican nomination without the strong backing of religious Protestants – a significant GOP constituency, noted The Gallup Organization, which released its analysis Tuesday.

In another study, 32 percent of churchgoing Protestants expressed favorable views of Romney compared to 29 percent who viewed him unfavorably – producing a net favorable rating of +3.

Romney's favorability rating is much lower than ratings of other chief presidential contenders.

Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson leads the Republican Party among religious Protestants with a favorability rating of +26, while Arizona Senator John McCain and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani had +21 and +19 ratings, respectively.

"Even worse for Romney, two Democratic presidential candidates – Illinois Senator Barack Obama (+10) and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards (+9) – have better net favorable ratings among this traditional Republican group than does Romney," pointed out Gallup.

"Only New York Senator Hillary Clinton is viewed more negatively by churchgoing Protestants than is Romney."

Furthermoe, Romney's troubles do not end with religious Protestants, but also extends to Americans with no religious affiliations.

Twice as many non-religious Americans rated Romney unfavorably (37 percent) as favorable (18 percent), resulting in a net -19 rating. In comparison, Giuliani and McCain both had net positive ratings of +8 and +4, respectively, among those who expressed no religious affiliation.

Gallup also noted that a poll earlier this year that suggested a black candidate, a woman, a Catholic or a Hispanic presidential candidate had a better chance of being voted president than a Mormon.

"So far, Romney has been successful at fundraising, which has helped him to win support in key early primary states," observed Gallup. But the organization also predicted that even if Romney wins the Iowa caucus or the New Hampshire primary, he will have a difficult time in southern state primaries where religious Protestants have a stronghold.

The latest analysis was based on Gallup polls conducted Aug. 13-Sept. 16, 2007 that interviewed with 3,037 U.S. adults. For the analysis, "Protestants" included all those who identify themselves as Protestants, those who identify a specific Protestant denomination, and those who described themselves as "Christian" but without any denomination.

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