So, new polling data out yesterday. Politico had the straightest headline:
Poll: 18% oppose Mormon candidate
But when you get to the lede, well things turn slightly:
The percentage of Americans who would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate because of his religion is the same today as it was in 1967 when George Romney ran for the White House, according to a new Gallup Poll on Thursday.
Today, 18 percent of respondents said they would not vote for a Mormon hopeful, compared with 17 percent who responded similarly in 1967. George Romney ran for president in the 1968 election cycle.
CNN echoed this spin. This particular spin, that it is the same as when George Romney abortively ran, is an effort by the press to “prove” that they are not more focused on it than they were then. It has become a common assertion that “no one talked about it when Mitt Romney’s father ran, but everybody does now.” What this spin neglects is that while polling data may be similar, the press is not. The press simply did not report on religious affiliation of candidates back then, and they certainly ddi not give Mormonism the proctological examination it has been treated to this and last cycle. The Washington Post wonders if the number if “trouble” for Romney. Jonathon Tobin @ Commentary sees and entirely different spin:
However, the good news for Romney is that the number of those saying they will not vote for a Mormon has actually declined in the last year from 22 to 18 percent. Of course, that means the number is pretty much the same as it was in 1967, a sobering realization for those who might think religious prejudice is a thing of the past. But the decline may have more to do with support for the Republican candidate than anything else. Because there has probably been more Mormon-bashing in the mainstream media and popular culture in the last 12 months than in recent memory, for there to be a drop in anti-Mormon prejudice means rather than feeding bias, the Romney candidacy has put a dent in it. That bodes well for the GOP in the fall.
If you want to do careful analysis, the 18% number has to be looked at in comparison to questions about anti-religion voting generally and corrected in a manner that will differentiate between anti-Mormon votes and simply anti-religious votes.
But forget the number, the real take-away form this is that it is the spin that matters, not the number itself. The number may have been the same when George Romney ran, but the chatter was entirely different. This is an “all Americans”poll, not a “likely votes” and therefore the effect of the results is likely to be far less pronounce in the voting booth than it is in the poll data itself. That is, unless Romney’s opposition can amplify the data, through press coverage and other chatter to make it matter. Our response must be to chatter more loudly. Consider the email I posted yesterday, then go and do likewise.
The poll did result in an uptick of commentary, FoxNews reprinted a blog post that discussed some interesting presidential religious comments from the past. At the LATimes, Doyle McManus declares the issue dead. I think that is overly optimistic, dying perhaps, but not dead. But then McManus might want us to grow weary on watch. Noam Scheiber @ TNR thinks the financial success of the Romney campaign is a Mormon plot:
In Romney’s case, I’d say it was both the general culture of entrepreneurialism that Mormons are steeped in, and his own particular experience trying to save souls in France (possibly the least hospitable place on the planet for such an undertaking), that gave him such a leg up in his future salesmanship.
And so while it’s no doubt true that Romney’s business background helped turn him into a remarkable fundraiser, it’s probably more accurate to say that Romney’s Mormonism made him more successful at both.
So, Mr. McManus, dead? I don’t think so. The Scheiber piece is very well done. It seems to say that Romney has earned his ability to raise money. But when a large portion of his readers view business as antithetical to “real faith,” and another portion resents business success generally. it could be spun pretty negatively. Moreover, it gets to say “Mormon” over and over and thus play on existing bias and amplifying the 18%.
Finally, while there are grave arguments inside Catholicism, they seem to be pretty fed up with the shenanigans of the Obama administration:
The U.S. Catholic Church, beginning on Thursday, will spend two weeks focusing attention on the issue of religious freedom. The “Fortnight for Freedom” will end, appropriately, on the Fourth of July. While it was planned long before, the Obama administration’s birth control mandate will now be a central focus of the event.
The two weeks of prayer, study and public action will remember Christians who were persecuted for their faith, such as John Fisher, Thomas More, and Apostles Peter and Paul.
“Across America, our right to live out our faith is being threatened – from Washington’s forcing Catholic institutions to provide services that contradict their beliefs, to state governments’ prohibiting religious charities from serving the most vulnerable,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, in a statement Thursday.
The Washington Post gives a bunch of statistics trying to spin that this will not matter all that much. Some things do not come down to numbers. This may be a Roman Catholic effort, but as more people hear about it more people are going to get ticked off. The are lines in this nation. Most people try and steer well clear of them in order to avoid unpleasantness. But on this issue, Obama pushed too hard. He is forcing people to take a stand in a place they would just as soon not. They are not going to side with him because he has forced this discomfort upon them.
American does not so much have rules as it does boundaries. Rules can be broken, but crossing boundaries is an invasion. We don;t take kindly to that.