Poll: Issues of Race, Religion Remain Strong in Presidential Race

A new ABC/Washington Post poll released Monday highlights the differences between Americans who believe racial and religious discriminations are non-issues today versus those who feel racism is a factor in selecting our elected leaders.

The poll is timely given that its findings apply to both presidential candidates: incumbent Barack Obama, the first African-American U.S. president, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who if elected would be the first Mormon U.S. president.

According to the poll, 62 percent of non-blacks do not see racial discrimination as a predominant issue in their communities. Among this group, 59 percent favor Romney while 34 percent back Obama.

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Among non-blacks who believe racial discrimination is an issue, Obama is favored over Romney by a margin of 56 to 37 percent. But almost all blacks surveyed in this poll say they support President Obama even though polls taken within the last several weeks indicate the president's support among blacks may have weakened after his public support for same-sex marriage.

But more telling may be voters' thoughts about supporting a Mormon to be the U.S. commander-in-chief.

Among those surveyed, 31 percent of non-Mormon Americans have an unfavorable view of Mormonism, while 38 percent see the faith in a favorable light. Among those who have favorable views of Mormons, Romney's support is 54 percent versus only 42 percent among those who have a negative view of Mormonism.

In March, 42 percent of Americans surveyed said candidates' religious beliefs were important compared to 38 percent in the most recent poll. Political analysts view this as a sign that more Americans are becoming comfortable with Romney's religious beliefs as they learn more about him. Sixty-three percent say a candidate's religion does not matter significantly.

Voting aside, 74 percent of non-Mormons say they would be comfortable if a close relative married a Mormon, while only 20 percent said they would be "uncomfortable" with such a union.

Race and religion aside, an earlier poll released by ABC/Washington Post last week found that 63 percent of Americans feel the country is headed in the wrong direction, but 58 percent still want to give President Obama a second term.

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