Republican evangelicals are less likely than other religious voters to support Mitt Romney in the primary elections, but they are more likely vote for him over President Obama in the general election, a new poll suggests.
Among Republican voters, just 8 percent say Romney's religion makes them less likely to vote for him and 44 percent say it would not make a difference. Among white evangelical Republican voters, however, 15 percent say Romney's religion would make them less likely to support him.
Still, voters could find themselves voting for Romney if he wins the GOP nomination, according to the poll released Wednesday from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. About 90 percent of white evangelical Republican voters say they would back Romney over Obama in a general election matchup.
In the general election, those who say they attend religious services at least once
a week were more likely to vote for Romney over Obama (55% to 41%). "Overall, white evangelicals would be among the strongest Romney supporters if he is the GOP nominee challenging Obama next fall," the survey suggests.
White evangelical Protestant voters appear to have mixed opinions about Romney; 46 percent of them expressed favorable views compared to 40 percent of those who suggested unfavorable views. Romney would likely find weakest support among white evangelical Republicans who agree with the Tea Party where just 11 percent of these voters support Romney for the GOP nomination compared to 39 percent who said they would back Herman Cain.
In the poll, conducted November 9-14, Cain led Romney (17% to (26%) among white evangelical Republican and Republican-leaning voters. Romney was running nearly neck-and-neck with Cain among white Catholic Republican voters (26% and 23%). Cain's standing in the polls has dropped since some women accused him of sexually harassing them. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich's numbers have been up recently, and 19 percent of evangelical voters suggested they support the former House speaker.
Despite Mormonism's increased visibility in recent years, little has changed among perception among evangelicals since Romney's 2008 run for the GOP nomination.
About half of all voters–and 60 percent of evangelical Republicans–know that Romney is a Mormon. Half of the survey respondents said Mormonism is a Christian religion while a third said it is not, demonstrating little change in beliefs about Mormonism over the past four years.
The survey also looked at party perception among religious voters. Despite Democratic outreach to religious voters, 43 percent of Americans currently say the Republican Party is friendly to religion, compared to 30 percent of those who say the same thing about the Democratic Party.
However, fewer see the GOP as friendly to religion (43%) than did so during President George W. Bush's years in office (50%). A majority of white evangelical Protestants (53%) say the GOP is friendly to religion, compared to 18 percent of evangelicals who said the same thing about the Democratic Party.