Welcome to RelPol, a student peer reviewed online magazine. This magazine is part of the assessment for the module "In God We Trust" @ the University of Hull.
In America there is supposed to be a separation of the Church and State but was this really the case when it came to voting in the 2012 Presidential Election?
This cartoon by political cartoonist Pat Bagley suggests that the separation of church and state during the 2012 election was true. However, polls have shown that that actually people were not bothered by Romney’s Mormonism.
The cartoon implies that a Mormon becoming President was comical because it is so unlikely that a Mormon would become president, however this was far from the case. Romney actually won 48 percent of the popular vote making it one of the closest elections since 1960 (in which a candidate’s religion had a huge impact on voting).
Senator Orrin Hatch said about his 2000 nomination the “one reason I ran was to knock down the prejudicial wall that exists” against Mormons. “I wanted to make it easier for the next candidate of my faith”. Arguably he achieved this as most Americans tend to vote for a president based on their policies rather than their religion as long as the religion is a denomination of Christian faith.
Unlike Senator Orrin Hatch’s presidential campaign in 2000 before fellow Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney, it appears that Romney’s religion had very little influence over America’s choice to vote for the 2012 Republican candidate. Polls have shown that 68 percent of Americans said that a presidential candidate being Mormon would make no difference to their choice. In addition to this, of the 56 percent of Republican and Republican leaning voters, 44 percent of these people said that Romney’s religion would make no difference to them. The polls clearly show that a candidate’s religion has very little influence on people’s voting behaviours. It could even be argued that as long as the presidential candidates show that they have a religion and are not atheists, that the specificity of the religion does not matter.
However there are still prejudicial walls that exist which can be seen on The Southern Baptist Convention website which proclaims that “God cannot be identified…. With the Mormon religion’s notion of god.” This would have obviously influence the Southern Baptist voters during the 2012 Presidential Election. If their church is proclaiming that God does not recognise the Mormon religion, it poses the question: what is the lesser evil: voting for a Mormon or for an atheist as president?
Southern Baptists were not the only group to have an issue with Mitt Romney’s Mormonism in the 2012 presidential election. White Angelical Republican and Republican leaning voters also did not feel comfortable voting for a Mormon with some 15 percent saying that Romney’s religion would make them less likely to support and vote for him. This is also reflected in the cartoon in which it is clear that the woman does not believe that a Mormon president is the right choice and even entertaining the thought that a Mormon could ever become president is nothing less than a comedy in the US American political (and religious) theatre.
So what did influence Mitt Romney’s 2012 Presidential Election as his Mormon faith clearly did not have the huge impact as that was possibly expected? Romney’s multiple blunders such as “not being concerned about the very poor” and the “binders full of women” gaffes had more of an impact on the voters than his religion did. In addition Mitt Romney had a distinct inability to connect and engage with the voters which was reflected in his 47% comment in which he said:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
Romney did a number of flip flops he did on issues such as abortion, Vietnam and social security which did not help his popularity and influenced his presidential election.
As a fellow Mormon and Republican candidate in the 2012 election, Jon Huntsman’s endorsement of Mitt Romney will have helped Romney’s reputation. He said of Romney:
I believe it is now time for our party to unite around the candidate best equipped to defeat Barack Obama. Despite our differences and the space between us on some issues, I believe that candidate is Governor Mitt Romney
By having other Mormon politicians endorse him, it made Mormonism not seem as foreign to voters who were not sure about having a Mormon president. In 2007, Romney himself said that “A person should not be elected because of his faith. Nor should he be rejected because of his faith.” Never was this more relevant than in the Presidential Election of 2012.
Clearly Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith had an impact of some voters and his 2012 Presidential election, however for the vast majority it didn’t. A Pew Report stated that “Unease with Romney’s religion has little impact on voting preferences. “Republicans and white evangelicals overwhelmingly back Romney irrespective of their views of his faith, and Democrats and seculars overwhelmingly oppose him regardless of their impression.”
This is reflected in the percentage of people who voted for Romney despite his religion.