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Anti-Mormon bias lingers, poll shows

Mitt Romney faces an anti-Mormon bias just as strong as the one his father confronted during his own presidential run more than four decades ago, according to a Gallup poll.

Eighteen percent of Americans say that if their political party nominated “a generally well qualified person for president who happened to be Mormon,” they would not vote for that candidate. Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, is a devout Mormon who once presided over the church’s Boston stake.

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When Gallup asked the same question in 1967, during George Romney’s bid for the White House, 17 percent of Americans said they would refuse to vote for a Mormon.

“The stability of resistance to a Mormon presidential candidate over the past 45 years is an anomaly, given that resistance to a candidate who is black, a woman or Jewish has declined substantially over the same period of time,” Gallup Poll Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport wrote in a press release announcing the survey results.

The electoral significance of a lingering anti-Mormon bias is unclear because only 57 percent of Americans even know that Romney is a Mormon, according to the poll.

“This suggests the possibility that as Romney’s faith becomes better known this summer and fall, it could become more of a negative factor -- given that those who resist the idea of a Mormon president will in theory become more likely to realize that Romney is a Mormon as the campaign unfolds,” Newport said. “That things will actually work out this way, however, is far from clear.”

Democrats, who are unlikely to vote for Romney anyway, oppose a Mormon president at a much higher rate than Republicans, 24 percent to 10 percent. Opposition among independents stands at 18 percent.

Newport noted an encouraging precedent for Romney: In 1960, 21 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a well qualified Catholic, but John F. Kennedy won that year’s presidential election anyway.

The poll was conducted from June 7-10 and had a sample of 1,004 adults. Its margin of error was four percentage points.

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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