NEW YORK – Most Americans are unfamiliar with Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney’s religious affiliation, and many are unclear whether Mormons are Christians or not, according to a new FOX News poll. In addition, while a majority says a presidential candidate being a Mormon would make no difference to their vote, among the remaining voters a significantly larger portion say they would be less likely rather than more likely to vote for a Mormon.
Gov. Romney’s religion may be a hot topic among political pundits, but few Americans (14 percent) know that he is a Mormon.
And while over half (53 percent) believe Mormons are Christians, one in four (25 percent) think they are not and 22 percent are unsure. Furthermore, 25 percent say Mormons are more likely than people of other religions to have unusual beliefs.
Can a Mormon be elected president? The new poll asked voters about supporting presidential candidates from several religious affiliations, including Mormonism.
A 54 percent majority says that a candidate being Mormon would make no difference to their vote, putting it about in the middle of other religions on the "neutral" rating: It would be a factor to more people than being Protestant, Catholic or Jewish, and to fewer people than a candidate being a Muslim, Scientologist or Atheist.
Even so, Mormonism has a net negative rating (minus 23 percent), as a significantly higher number of voters says they are less likely (32 percent) to vote for a Mormon candidate than say they are more likely (9 percent) to do so.
The results are somewhat more positive in a separate question specifically about Romney that states he is a Mormon: 3 percent say they would be more likely to vote for him for president, while 24 percent say the fact that he is a Mormon would make them less likely to support him and 67 percent say it would make no difference.
The results are almost identical among white Evangelical Christians, a key voting group for Republican candidates: 3 percent say they would be more likely to vote for Romney, 28 percent less likely and 65 percent "no difference."
In general, being Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish is a net positive for candidates. Candidates who are Scientologists, Atheists and Muslims receive the highest net negative ratings.
Likelihood of voting for a presidential candidate if the candidate is:
"A lot of this is cultural-not actually based on any religious test," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "The personality and presentation of the candidate matter more than any specific because, in the end, the specific question is: will this person consider my needs or put their own group forward?"
Other Characteristics — Age, Experience, Gender, Race
Most voters say a presidential candidate being a woman or African American would make no difference in deciding their vote. About one in five (21 percent) say they are more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who is a woman, 12 percent less likely and 64 percent say it "doesn’t matter."
When asked about an African American candidate, 17 percent say more likely and 7 percent say they would be less likely to vote for that candidate, with 74 percent saying it "doesn’t matter."
The poll also asked about some specific candidate characteristics that have been raised:
— Most Americans — 78 percent — do not think Arizona Sen. John McCain’s age would interfere with his ability to serve effectively as president. Fully 83 percent of Republicans think his age would not interfere.
— 44 percent of voters think Illinois Sen. Barack Obama lacks the experience to be president, which is twice as many as think the first-term senator has the right experience (22 percent). 34 percent are unsure.
— Nearly half (47 percent) think former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s positions on the issues are "about right," with 29 percent unsure; among Republicans, 65 percent say his positions are "about right" and 11 percent too liberal.
— A 42 percent plurality thinks New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s positions are "about right" and 34 percent too liberal. Among Democrats, 73 percent say her positions are "about right."