We have been accumulating data on the effect of Mitt Romney’s faith on the last election.
To date we have three very significant data points:
- The 2008 Vanderbilt study that showed that “flip-flop” was often code for “Mormon.”
- Dan Balz in his book on the 2012 campaign, “If evangelical Christians accounted for more than 50 percent of the primary or caucus electorate, Romney lost the state. If they accounted for fewer than 50 percent, he won.“
- The fact that social issue ballot measure significantly out-polled Romney on the conservative side.
We now have another point for the stack of data. There is a blog post from a Benjamin Knoll @ HuffPo:
Using a logistic regression statistical estimation procedure, I analyzed how individual-level attitudes toward Mormons affected the likelihood that someone would vote either for or against Romney in the 2012 general election. This procedure estimates the effect of a single variable (attitudes toward Mormons and Mormonism) on another variable (likelihood of voting for Romney), statistically controlling for a host of other factors including political ideology, demographics, and socioeconomic status.
It appears that most attitudes toward Mormons did not affect the likelihood of voting for Romney one way or another, with the exception of one key factor: whether or not a voter considers Mormons to be Christian. These results suggest that about 1 out of every 20 Republicans decided to stay home instead of turning out to vote for their party’s nominee because they don’t perceive Mormons as Christian.
After that, rigor disappears fro the analysis and Knoll concludes, rather obviously:
While I have provided evidence that Romney very likely did lose some (mostly Republican) votes as a result of negative attitudes toward his Mormon faith, this was ultimately not the decisive factor in the outcome of the election.
There are no “decisive” factors in elections, despite the press’ never-ending attempts to turn the enormously complex into the stupefyingly simple.
More work needs to be put into this question, not so much to understand Romney;s loss, but to help understand what is at root in the divisions that just cost the party such an enormous loss in the shutdown/debt limit debate. How much did Romney’s candidacy contribute to the widespread impression among Christian voters that the Republican party has abandoned them? What will it take for the party to woo them back?