* Evangelical vote seen important in early primaries
* Obama rated favorable by 50 percent in overall poll
By Andrew Stern
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Mitt Romney's Mormonism could
hurt the Republican candidate with evangelical voters in his
fight for party's presidential nomination, but those voters
would favor him over President Barack Obama in the general
election, a poll released Wednesday concluded.
Some 15 percent of evangelical Christians, a key
constituency in the Republican presidential nomination battle,
say they are wary of Mormonism and will not vote for Mitt
Romney, the poll found.
But those same voters were more likely to favor the former
Massachusetts governor, a Mormon, in the November 2012 general
election over President Barack Obama, whom they dislike more,
the Pew Research Center poll conducted Nov. 9-14 said.
"You do see the potential for Romney's Mormonism to have an
impact on the primary campaign," said Pew research Greg Smith.
"Those who think Mormonism is not a Christian religion are
more reticent about Romney and his candidacy. At the same time
those people are the people who are the strongest critics of
Barack Obama. Fully 92 percent of them say they have an
unfavorable view of Obama," he said.
Nearly two out of three white evangelical Christian voters
in the poll did not believe Mormonism is a Christian religion
and 15 percent of evangelicals would not support Romney.
Evangelical Christians may account for 60 percent of the
votes cast in two of the first four Republican nomination
contests, the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses and the Jan. 21 South
Among the 480 likely Republican voters polled, which had a
5.5 percentage point margin of error, Romney led with support
from 23 percent of the participants, followed by former
businessman Herman Cain with 22 percent and former U.S. House
Speaker Newt Gingrich with 16 percent.
While Gingrich has risen in recent national polls and Cain
has fallen, Romney has maintained support in the low- to
mid-20s, near the top of the pack.
In the overall poll of 2,001 adults, which had a 3 point
margin of error, 50 percent had a favorable view of Obama, 38
percent viewed Romney favorably, 33 percent had a favorable
view of Gingrich, 31 percent liked Cain and 25 percent had a
favorable view of Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Nearly nine of 10 Republican voters either did not know or
did not care that Romney is a Mormon.
Half of likely Republican voters in the poll said Mormonism
was a Christian religion, and one-third did not think so.
Romney did better in a head-to-head matchup with Obama than
any of the other Republican candidates.
The fast-growing Mormon religion, formally known as the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was founded in
1830 by Joseph Smith and is based in Utah. Mormons have three
books of scripture other than the Bible, including the Book of
Mormon which Mormons believe was translated from golden plates
discovered by Smith. Their views depart from Christianity in
(Editing by Jackie Frank)
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