Iowa Republicans planning to attend the caucuses Jan. 3 have fewer concerns about GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney‘s religious beliefs than those who are inclined to skip the caucus, suggesting he may face greater hurdles among Republicans in the general election.
A University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll found that nearly 70 respondents who said they were “very likely” and “somewhat likely” to attend the caucus agreed with the statement “I would vote for a Mormon to become president of the United States.” But overall, Iowa Republicans are much less supportive of a Mormon president (41 percent), suggesting that if Romney secures the Republican nomination his faith may be a greater deterrent for general election voters than for caucus participants.
Republicans who said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to attend the upcoming caucus were much more likely to agree with a statement indicating they would vote for a Mormon president (69 percent) than Republicans who said they were “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to attend (30 percent and 23 percent, respectively). Among partisans, Independents were most likely to vote for a Mormon candidate (43 percent), closely followed by Republicans (41 percent), and Democrats (38 percent).
The telephone survey of 778 Iowans was conducted Oct. 12-19. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.6 percent. Of those respondents, 181 indicated they were “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to attend the 2012 Iowa Republican caucus; the margin of error for likely Republican caucus-goers is +/-7.4 percent. The survey used a common technique for indirectly asking about potentially sensitive topics (see topline).
“Likely caucus goers, while aware that Romney is a Mormon, may be more aware about and focused on the political stances of the candidates than their religious affiliation,” UI political science graduate student Spencer Willardson said. “If Romney secures the Republican nomination, it is possible that support for a Mormon president may grow among the general population.”
A news release from Oct. 21 from the same poll showed Herman Cain with a strong lead over Romney (37 percent to 27 percent) among likely caucus attendees. Jon Huntsman, also a Mormon, is in a distant last place (1 percent).
Topline results for the poll are available at: http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2011/october/102611Mormon_Hawkeye_Poll_Topline.pdf.
Poll results took into account income, education level, and age of respondents. Those making less than $30,000 or more than $70,000 had the highest levels of support for a Mormon president ($10,000-$30,000 51.9 percent; $70,000-$100,000 64.1 percent; $100,000+ 56.9 percent). Lowest levels of support were found among respondents making between $50,000-$75,000 (38 percent).
Highly educated respondents were also more likely to vote for a Mormon; college graduates were the most likely (61 percent) compared to respondents with only a high school education (25 percent). Age is also a significant factor, with those over the age of 70 most likely to vote for a Mormon (56 percent), followed by those between the ages of 55-69 (44 percent) and 35-54 (40 percent).
The partisan breakdown of the sample was 33 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican, and 36 percent Independent. Fifty-five percent of surveyed Republicans said they were “somewhat” or “very” likely to attend the Iowa caucuses. Reported results are weighted by congressional district partisanship.
The poll was conducted by the Hawkeye Poll Cooperative, comprised of UI faculty and graduate students in political science, with the cooperation and facilities of the Iowa Social Science Research Center, directed by UI Sociology Professor Kevin Leicht. The poll is a teaching, research, and service project of the Department of Political Science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). CLAS and the Provost’s Office fund the poll.