The NY Times's July 22, 2007 "Week In Review" focused on the relationship between religion and politics, and particularly Mitt Romney's Mormonism, in an article by Michael Luo titled "God ’08: Whose, and How Much, Will Voters Accept?".
Mrs. Van Steenis wanted Mr. Romney to say where the Book of Mormon would figure in his decision making as president.I found the article to be particularly fascinating because it includes a chart summarizing a Pew Research Center survey which asked respondents whether they were more or less likely to support a candidate based upon individual traits, such as: Doesn't believe in God, Never held elected office, In his/her 70s, Homosexual, Muslim, No college education, Used drugs in past, Had extramarital affair, Taken antidepressants, Mormon, Has been a minister, Smokes cigarettes, Long-time Washington politician, Hispanic, etc.
“Where would the Bible be?” she asked. “Would it be above the Book of the Mormon, or would it be beneath it?”
Although the Constitution bars any religious test for office, if polls are to be believed, Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, faces a serious obstacle to winning the presidency because of his faith. Surveys show a substantial percentage of Americans would be less likely to vote for a Mormon, or for that matter a Muslim or an atheist. But how rigid is that sentiment?
For example, I find it interesting that there is 60% net support for belief in God, but 10% net opposition to having been a minister. Similarly, the article highlights belief in God but, considering the ranking of Muslim and Mormon, it actually seems to be a rather weak trait by itself and perhaps only significant by association with other more relevant qualities.
I think the chart is also a bit deceptive, which the last question in the blockquote above highlights. How much weight do we give each of these traits? I'd be interested to learn if there's a survey in which respondents attempt the difficult task of weighting them.
Does the fact that the "Constitution bars any religious test for office" imply a broader moral imperative for voters to ignore religion in evaluating a candidate? Do you think the article suggests this?
More generally, do you think the trait biases evident in the survey are justifiable or are they representative of the unjust prejudices in our society? For example, how much of the support (4%) and opposition (14%) to a Hispanic candidate represents racism versus, for example, the expectation of a correlation between being Hispanic and specific views on immigration? Or does the latter count as racism as well?
(hat tip to Andrew Jackson at RedBlueChristian)