McCain sees anti-Mormonism in the Gingrich win in South Carolina

We are getting way too political on this blog, even for a hyper-political person like myself, but I couldn’t let this go by without highlighting it. Sen. McCain, who took advantage of (some) anti-Mormonism to win the Republican nomination in 2008, now sees anti-Mormonism as a factor again.

From the story:

“We haven’t had time to do a real analysis of the Romney race in South Carolina, but once we break that down, there was some element of anti-Mormonism in that vote,” McCain asserted. “I’m not saying all of it, but there were elements there. There was nothing that Mitt Romney could have done.”


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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

25 thoughts on “McCain sees anti-Mormonism in the Gingrich win in South Carolina

  1. For once I agee with McCain. I do think it was a factor to an extent…what that extent is or was, I don’t know. But, I just think it’s time to GET OVER IT already!

  2. I don’t know how we can get past politics when Mormonism is so intertwined with it right now. Does this mean that I shouldn’t do a post on the Tea Party and how there is a large faction that is going off the edge even for a conservative supporter like myself? Did I just write it for discussion in this comment?

  3. Well they don’t have a “do you hate mormonism” exit poll question so I think it will be hard to identify. You will instead have to try and find sudden and otherwise unexplainable spikes in other areas of support such as tea party, old people, and evangelical voters.

    But Romney is on his way to a Florida win so it looks like it won’t matter that much.

  4. Romney was on the way to a South Carolina win until the last week, so its not set in stone. I won’t put it past anti-Mormonism to throw the expected into a tailspin.

  5. Florida is a very different state than SC. Much more diverse, many more ethnic groups, religous groups and it’s also much bigger population wise. So, it’s not set in stone, but Mittens has a better chance there.

  6. @#4:

    In the 2008 South Carolina primary, Romney did nearly twice as well among non-evangelical voters as he did among evangelicals (20 vs. 11 percent). This year in Iowa, he performed 24 points worse among born-again Christians than among other voters (38 vs. 14 percent). (link)

    Nearly two-thirds of the voters described themselves as evangelical or born-again Christian. In 2008, 60 percent had indicated they were evangelical or born-again Christians. Mr. Gingrich was backed by about 40 percent of these voters; about a fifth of them voted for Mr. Romney.

    Six in 10 voters said it was important that a candidate shared their religious beliefs, and nearly half of them backed Mr. Gingrich, who has converted to Catholicism; about a fifth went for Mr. Romney, a Mormon…(link)

    One of the biggest questions for Mr. Romney has been the impact of his Mormon faith in a heavily evangelical state like South Carolina.

    Voters were not asked about that explicitly in exit polls, but among those who came to vote looking for someone who shared their religious beliefs, Mr. Romney did not do well.

    He received only one-fifth of the vote of evangelicals, and only one-tenth of the vote among those evangelical voters who said that sharing a candidate’s religious beliefs mattered to them a great deal.

    Unfortunately for Mr. Romney, the electorate that turned out on Saturday was heavily populated by religious voters.

    Nearly two-thirds of the voters were evangelical or born-again Christians – slightly more than in 2008. And these voters came to the polls looking for a candidate who shared their religious beliefs. Three-quarters of evangelicals said that it mattered to them that a candidate share their religious beliefs.

    In stark contrast, only around one-quarter of non-evangelicals said a candidate’s sharing their beliefs mattered to them…(link)

    I’m amazed people downplay the anti-Mormon bias at work here. This is a substantial factor for Romney to overcome. And, yes, it shows up in studies and polls. It’s a known and measurable factor.

  7. Bruce N, great job of using empirical evidence. There is very little of that in many arguments on this subject that I have seen.

  8. It turned out to be something like that in New Hampshire as well, a place that should be a “neutral” proving ground for this kind of thing. Those that argue that he lost in SC from all groups and therefore can’t pinpoint a religious reasoning for Romney loss are exaggerating. Many of the groups that he lost to overlapped with the religious group. As pointed out, the less religion was a political consideration, the more Romney won their vote. I’m not surprised that people downplay the anti-Mormon bias because to admit to bigotry of any kind is currently looked down upon. Not that I’m complaining about that situation, but it does make people liars and obfuscate.

  9. “Anti-mormon bias” makes it sound like people who vote against Romney because of his religion are doing it because of prejudices we deem to be immoral and ugly.

    But you have to remember that the Evangelical distrust of Mormonism is built into the very fabric of their theology. It is as unfair to expect them to vote for a Mormon as it is to expect us to drink a coffee.

    When you ask them to vote for a Mormon, you are asking them to vote against the fundamentals of their faith, both in the Bible as the exclusive and infallible word of God, and their belief that America is a Christian nation. Mormons are not Christians according to Evangelical doctrine, and turning their country over to a non-Christian is the worst kind of betrayal of their faith.

    If Mormons want their own exclusive and dogmatic beliefs to be respected, they should learn to respect the exclusive and dogmatic beliefs of others.

  10. I would like to point out again that there are many types of evangelicals, and many different evangelical belief systems. There is no central “evangelical church.” Baptists can be extremely conservative and also very liberal. Just to use one example, Jimmy Carter is an evangelical Baptist. Some of my very nice, tolerant neighbors are evangelicals. So, it simply is an exaggeration to say that “distrust of Mormonism is built into the very fabric of their theology.” To use another example, it would be an exaggeration to say that jihad is built into the theology of all Muslims. So, there are extreme Muslims and extreme evangelicals. Many of them preach a severe distrust of Mormonism — others could care less.

  11. Geoff, point well taken. There certainly are Evangelicals with more moderate beliefs, and this certainly provides Mormons with a positive opportunity for ecumenical dialogue and political cooperation.

    I personally delight in the fundamentalism of Evangelicals because it increases the distance between us and them. As a liberal Mormon, I have “issues” with political cooperation with conservative Evangelicals and loathe to build upon common interests and beliefs. The more they resist Mormons, the easier it is for me to deal with the resistance I feel towards the conservative Christian political agenda and it’s influence among Mormons. I’m praying for a Gingrich win in Florida.

  12. An endorsement by McCain does not speak to the conservatism of Mitt Romney.

    Republican Evs may vote against Romney in the primaries, but I can’t imagine a conservative Ev voting for Obama in the general. Anti-Obama-ism is going to trump anti-Mormonism in the general.

    Another major factor for Newt’s surge is that democrats are voting for Newt in the states that have open primaries. They’re crossing over just to cause havoc. (Similar to Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” in 2008, when he urged republicans to vote for Hillary in the open primary states, after McCain had the republican primaries sewn up.)

    It shows that democrats would much rather run against Newt than against Romney.

  13. But you have to remember that the Evangelical distrust of Mormonism is built into the very fabric of their theology. It is as unfair to expect them to vote for a Mormon as it is to expect us to drink a coffee.

    Wow! Just wow! It’s hard for me to accept this comparison as anything but a stretch – for reasons I’ll explain below.

    Granted, I do confess that, given a few caveats, I do agree with the assessment to a point. As the follow on comments pointed out, Nate was actually not talking about all Evangelicals, but only some. In fact, I believe the “some Evangelicals” was what I have called “The Third” in the past. The 33% of Evangelicals that have developed a deep bigotry towards people with religions too different from them. The other 2/3rds range in levels of bigotry, but in generally it either isn’t a problem or isn’t a big problem.

    So if I’m assuming that Nate meant “some types of Evangelicals have distrust of Mormonism built into their theology…” I’d have to agree that is probably an accurate statement for “The Third”. But is this really a belief equivalent to Mormons not drinking coffee? Is such a comparison at all fair?

    Consider also this quote from Nate:

    When you ask them to vote for a Mormon, you are asking them to vote against the fundamentals of their faith, both in the Bible as the exclusive and infallible word of God, and their belief that America is a Christian nation. Mormons are not Christians according to Evangelical doctrine, and turning their country over to a non-Christian is the worst kind of betrayal of their faith.

    Okay, I will grant that for “the Third” this is an accurate statement. However, I totally and completely draw the line at this statement, which I fully disagree with:

    If Mormons want their own exclusive and dogmatic beliefs to be respected, they should learn to respect the exclusive and dogmatic beliefs of others.

    I look in my heart and I confess I really do believe that morality — right and wrong — exist objectively. If that belief of mine is wrong, then what I’m about to say is a meaningless delusion — as is all morality and meaning in life.But I’m going to say it anyhow because I believe morality exists:

    Nate! Bullcrap!

    To compare Mormon ‘exclusive claims’ (which mind you exist in all religion else they aren’t religions in the first place) with the bigoted views of some types of Evangelicals is beyond the pale.

    What The Third of Evangelicals (the ones Nate is specifically talking about) are doing is morally wrong. Period. They are being bigots. That is to say, their theology advances bigotry directly and in the ugliest of ways. The bigotry is systemic to the religion (for the Third, not for all Evangelicals) and should be fought and overturned by all moral people everywhere. Starting with conscientious Evangelicals everywhere.

    In so far as this is built into their theology (for those that it is) they have taken a direct evil that is at odds with God and they have built that evil into their theology. It should not be respected by us in the same way we should expect people to respect our beliefs in drinking coffee.

    I do not oppose these Evangelicals because they are making an exclusive truth claim. I have no problem with exclusive truth claims. They are necessary for religions to exist.

    No, I’m opposing them because they lie about Mormons and have built into their theology ugly lies that are meant to hurt people. Those lies create fear of other religions for the sake of boundary maintenance. I don’t mind boundary maintenance, but I oppose any sort of boundary maintenance that results in misrepresenting other religions and creating fear or false views of members of those religions.

  14. Wow Bruce. If we stopped to consider some of the things Mormons have sometimes been asked to do in their history, practice polygamy, not allow blacks to hold the priesthood, I think we can resist over-reacting about those who feel voting for Mormons contradicts their religious beliefs.

    There is nothing extraordinary about excluding certain groups from your belief structure. Mormons are clearly out of line with a very fundamental principle of Evangelical Christianity: the authority, infallibility, and exclusivity of the Bible. I think it’s a stretch to call this “evil.” People all around the world believe much crazier things than this. And Mormon beliefs themselves could be characterized as even crazier on many fronts. To Evangelicals, Mormon beliefs sound as outrageous and scary as the spacy Scientology claims sound to many Mormons. Start asking fellow Mormons if they would vote for a Scientologist for president, and you might get an accurate comparison for the current feelings of Evangelicals towards Romney.

    Evangelical embracing of Mitt Romney and his crazy religion with all their false prophets is a sign, not of growing charity and tolerance, but of growing secularism and pluralism, the very evils traditional Evangelical Christianity is fighting so hard against.

  15. There is one road forward with Evangelicals: greater secularism and pluralism. Greater “righteousness,” religious devotion, charity, or faith will not bring them towards Mormonism. They have to first distance themselves from their religion and their monstrous God of eternal hellfire. In fact, it is the very subject of hellfire that usually defines those who vote for Romney and those who don’t. “Do you believe Mormons will go to hell? Gays? Muslims?” Those who are wishy washy about those questions are usually the ones who would vote for Mitt Romney.

  16. “Start asking fellow Mormons if they would vote for a Scientologist for president”

    Until you actually ask, I am going to say from my own experience that a lot of Mormons would vote a Scientology member for President if they share political views. Liberal Mormons are the only ones I have ever heard say anything bad about them. Conservatives either don’t think of them or think of them as a persecuted minority. Interesting enough, Muslims are the exact opposite so you might as well have used them as an example. Even then, its not theological that Mormons should be questioning of Muslims as leaders; its current history.

    The point is, if you believe in poll research at all, Mormons are the most willing of any religion besides maybe Buddhism to like people of other faiths. And I am going to fight secularism and pluralism in the U.S., as envisioned by today’s atheists, to the bitter end. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

  17. Wow, looks like I missed the party. A recent Quinnipiac poll has Mitt Romney leading among evangelicals in Florida. (38-33%)

    In general I’ve found this series of threads to be more an indication of the mormon persecution complex than any real anti mormon bigotry. And I say this as somebody who has lived in the south most of my life, experienced bigotry on my mission in Texas, and usually argues against the idea of a persecution complex. Romney had one of the worst weeks of his campaign while Newt had one of his best, is it not hard to believe that many people have many reasons to vote against him, including evangelicals. So bigotry may have played a minor part as McCain suggested but I don’t see this as a big deal or widespread anti mormonism at all.

  18. Morgan D, I think you make a decent point. Sometimes we Mormons love to point out how persecuted we are, and often we exaggerate. Bruce says about a third of evangelicals are bigoted against Mormons. But in places like NH and Colorado where I live that number is probably much lower. My personal test on these issues is to substitute another sometimes-persecuted religion and to test how we would feel about it. Let’s say that one-third of evangelicals said they would never vote for a Jewish person, no matter what. Would we consider that a problem, yes or no? I think the answer is, “yes.” So, it is a valid issue to bring up.

    But let’s say the number is much lower. Let’s say the real number is only 10 percent. That starts getting into the realm of much less of an issue because people are weird and will give weird answers. If you poll 1,000 people you will get all kinds of off-the-wall things. I saw a poll where 15 percent of people thought the moon landing was faked. So, if 15 percent of people think the moon landing was faked, do we really care if 15 percent of people say they won’t vote for a Mormon? Probably not.

    But your point about not exaggerating the persecution is valid. Mormons tend to lump all “evangelicals” in a group and see them as Nascar-watching rednecks with 15 dogs married to their cousins. Evangelicals run the gamut from Jimmy Carter to George W Bush to Billy Graham to country-western singers. We play a dangerous and wrong-headed game when we make the same generalizations about them that some people make about Mormons.

  19. The anti-Mormon element is very subtle I think. It’s flexible, which shows how unprincipled it is (but the same could be said with us on many issues!). I think Romney’s Mormonism is ultimately just another “negative” that takes on a greater or lessor role in the overall evaluation of him under any given set of circumstances. Those circumstances depend on external factors, such as the competition and their performance, as well as internal factors such as Romney’s performance as a candidate.

    I don’t know if anyone is arguing that his Mormon-ness is the overriding determining factor. But if it counts against him for “-10 points” on some internal voter decision making scale, then it’s a gap he has to overcome. And when his competition does really well, he’s already that far behind from the beginning. But when his competitors door poorly, and he does well, he can overcome it — still he can’t generate massive enthusiasm because of this inherent gap. The good thing for Romney and Mormonism in general is that that “-10 points” as I called it, isn’t a static, fixed number, but something that overtime we’d expect to decrease in severity as Romney proves himself.

    However, the longer the campaign where you have competition bringing up his negatives (real and phony) I think the more this Mormon-negative ranking will stick around.

  20. Jettboy, I will take up that issue at some point in a post here, but I guess I would say that the tea party (which I support) was never a monolith on any issue except for spending. I have no problem joining in with Sarah Palin and even the horrid Newt Gingrich if it will mean we tackle the deficit and save the country from financial ruin. I have always known that there were distasteful elements of the tea party, just as there are distasteful elements of every movement. So, I will continue to push my own issues in my own way, and point out the bigotry of my sometimes-allies when it is appropriate.

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