William Saletan has compiled some interesting poll data
about voter prejudice against Mormon political candidates. Along the way he offers an inadvertent rejoinder to those die-hard Obots who spent much of 2008 arguing that anyone who opposed Obama must be a racist.
National polls taken in recent months show how far anti-black prejudice has subsided compared to anti-Mormon prejudice. In a Gallup survey, 5 percent of adults said they wouldn’t vote for their party’s presidential nominee if he were black. Six percent said they wouldn’t vote for a woman, 7 percent said they wouldn’t vote for a Catholic, 9 percent said they wouldn’t vote for a Jew, and 10 percent said they wouldn’t vote for a Hispanic. But 22 percent said they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon.Only five percent would refrain from voting for a black person.
This isn't news to me. I spent much of 2008 arguing that voter prejudice against female candidates was (slightly) worse than the prejudice against black candidates. Here's the part I did not
know until just now:
In a Pew survey, 7 percent of adults said they’d be more likely to support a presidential candidate if he were black.
Thus, being black gives a candidate a slight advantage. Arguably, that's a good thing. It's certainly a whole lot better than the way things were when I was young. But these poll results debunk the suggestion that Obama had to overcome the obstacle of racism on his way to the White House: There was no such obstacle.
According to the Pew data, a female candidate also has a built-in advantage.About the prejudice against Mormonism:
I think that this can be attributed largely to the fact that Mormonism is a fairly young religion.
Because Mormonism came into being after the creation of printing presses and newspapers and modern scholarship, we have a great deal of objective information about its founder, Joseph Smith. The man clearly was a con artist and a sociopath, similar in many ways to L. Ron Hubbard. It remains an open question as to whether Smith and Hubbard came to believe in their own lies.
It is possible that Jesus and Buddha were similarly deceptive or self-deceived. We simply do not know. If you pretend
to know, you're kidding yourself. Jesus and Buddha lived in antiquity, well before the age of mass communication, and we lack sufficient amounts of objective data to make firm and final judgments about what kind of people they were. Whatever conclusions you may have reached about them must be categorized as provisional or personal.
Because Christianity is an old religion, we reflexively grant followers of Jesus a "pass." Jesus may
have been the thoroughly admirable individual described in the Gospels; thus, even those who do not share the faith usually refrain from condemning his followers as fools. But we know (from Fawn Brodie and other respected historians) that Joseph Smith was a mentally unbalanced liar -- hardly the "prophet" one hears about from pro-Mormon sources.
Allegiance to Mormonism compels one to ignore indisputable facts about the character of the religion's founder. For this reason, many people cannot respect the intelligence of a Mormon political candidate.
In the political world, of course, piety may be a pretense. I doubt that Obama is a man of deep faith. Bush Sr. probably was not, although he pretended to be "born again." Many sources say that Dubya genuinely believed in fundamentalist Christianity, but a few have suggested that his faith was a pose.
As for Romney -- well, frankly, I have no idea whether, in his heart, he truly believes in Mormon doctrine. For now, I'll take him at his word on that score.