Recent polls have suggested Mitt Romney's Mormon faith could have a significant impact on whether voters back his second bid for the White House. But a new survey suggests most people still don't know exactly what his faith is.
A Public Religion Research Institute poll finds just 49 percent of registered voters correctly identified Romney's faith as Mormon. The number is even lower among all Americans, with just 42 percent of those polled knew Romney's faith.
But in what could be a danger to Romney's electoral chances, the survey finds that evangelical voters are the most aware that the former Massachusetts governor is a Mormon. According to the poll, 53 percent of white evangelical Protestants identified Romney as a Mormon—up 9 points since July.
The big unknown for Romney is whether his religion will be a factor as voters increasingly learn more about him—especially in early voting states like Iowa and South Carolina, a population heavy with social conservatives and evangelicals.
The poll comes as Romney's faith has become more of an issue on the campaign trail in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor backing Rick Perry in the GOP nomination race, called Mormonism a cult and said it is "not Christian" during a faith forum featuring the 2012 candidates.
Meanwhile, a recent Quinnipiac poll found voters nationally are still deeply concerned about electing a Mormon president. Just 45 percent of those polled say they have a favorable view of the religion. Meanwhile, roughly 1 in 5 Republican voters say they wouldn't vote for a Mormon candidate, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Last week, a voter in Iowa pressed Romney about possibly delivering a speech clearing up misconceptions about the Mormon faith, as he did during the 2008 campaign. But in that exchange, Romney indicated he had no such plans.
"I don't think so," Romney replied. "I think the great majority of American people want to select the person who's the most capable of getting our country going again, with strong values and a strong economy and a strong military… Among the things that are unique and exceptional about our country is the fact that, in America, we recognize and appreciate differences in faith."
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