Poll: Mormon church membership negative for Huntsman, Romney

SMU Political Science Professor Matthew Wilson talks about how being a Mormon will affect the races of Republican presidential candidates Jon Huntsman Jr. and Mitt Romney.

By Lisa Riley Roche
The Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – A majority of Utahns believe the perception of the Mormon faith has gotten better since the last presidential race, but most still see LDS Church membership as a negative for Jon Huntsman Jr. and Mitt Romney.

The latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll results come on the eve of Huntsman becoming the second LDS candidate for president in 2012. Utah's former governor is set to announce his bid for the White House Tuesday morning at the Statue of Liberty.

Romney, the other Mormon in the race and the former leader of the Salt Lake Olympics, ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 and is widely seen as the current frontrunner.

A new national poll released Monday confirms there continues to be a reluctance to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. . .

Matthew Wilson, a professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas who specializes in religion and politics, said it's not clear how much attention the average American paid to the debate over Romney's faith in the last election.

"There remains a lot more ignorance about Mormonism" than other religions, Wilson said. "There are a lot of people in this country who don't know any Mormons."

He said Utahns who believe the national perception of Mormons is improving "may be somewhat optimistic, or looking with rose-colored glasses. … Most Americans are not hostile to the LDS Church. But there remains a significant minority that has prejudices they are willing to state."

Wilson said with Romney as the frontrunner in the 2012 race, Mormonism will be even more of an issue in this election. He said candidates would do well to stress that on most social and political questions. "Mormon belief is right in the mainstream of American conservative Christianity."

Read the full story.

# # #