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Romney’s Mormon faith a hurdle in primaries but not in a general election

Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith could hurt him in the Republican presidential primary, but is unlikely to affect his support in the general election, according to a new poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The poll found that Romney’s religion could hurt him with white evangelical Protestants– an important voting bloc in the Republican primaries. Among the evangelical voters polled, more than half (53 percent) said they did not think of Mormons as Christians. Asked for a single word to describe Mormonism, evangelicals were the most likely group to respond with the word, “cult.”

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In the primary, only 17 percent of white evangelical Protestants were likely to vote for Romney, compared to 26 percent of both white mainline Protestants and white Catholics.

But that trend does not hold true in the general election, if Romney were to face President Obama. The poll found that evangelical voters were also the bloc with the least favorable view of Obama, a Democrat. Support for Romney, if he were the nominee, would be just as high among voters who did not view Mormonism as Christianity as among those who did.

The poll of 2,001 adults was conducted Nov. 9-14. Full results can be seen here.

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at sschoenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.
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