Gallup poll has some bad news for Mitt Romney:
Though the vast majority of Americans say they would vote for their party’s nominee for president in 2012 if that person happens to be a Mormon, 22% say they would not, a figure largely unchanged since 1967.
There’s some reason to think that these numbers would move if Romney became the GOP nominee. Gallup adduces evidence from the 1960 campaign to show that anti-Catholic bias declined rapidly over the course of JFK running for president. And as you can see, back when it looked like Romney might win in 2008 people seemed to suddenly become more Mormon friendly. But this is hardly the only research indicating that a substantial swathe of voters doesn’t like Mormons. They’re better off than atheists (poor us) but it’s not ideal from an electability standpoint.
Of course one issue here is identity-motivated voting is a two-way street. JFK not only lost votes to Nixon from anti-Catholic voters, he presumably benefitted from enthusiasm for his candidacy from Catholics. Barack Obama probably lost votes in 2008 to anti-black prejudice, but also secured 95% of the African-American vote and boosted black turnout. Romney could, similarly, plausibly benefit from larger-than-normal performance among Mormon voters. That’s not a large demographic nationally speaking, but could be important in Nevada.