The religious group affinity some Mormons appear to feel for Romney comes though a little more clearly among Republicans and independents where Romney receives nearly unanimous support from Mormon Republicans and enjoys a 2:1 advantage among Mormon independents.
Given their shared faith, it should come as no surprise that Mormons support Mitt Romney for president. Among the nearly 1,500 Mormons in the 2012 YouGov/CCES national data (look below for details), 77 percent said they planned to vote (or already voted) for Romney. With the first Mormon nominee for a major party presidential ticket, you might expect the historic moment to mean that Mormons of all political stripes would be more supportive of Romney’s candidacy compared to other recent Republican presidential candidates.
Support from 77 percent of Mormons for a Mormon presidential candidate is, in fact, about ten points higher than the support Mormons gave overall to John McCain (67 percent).1 Among Utah Mormons in the Utah Colleges Exit Poll data, 74 percent voted for McCain in 2008 and 86 percent voted for George W. Bush in 2004. Comparing the 2008 national percentage of 67 percent to the 74 percent in Utah suggests that Utah Mormons may vote slightly more Republican than Mormons nationally. If you assume the 2004 Utah estimate for Bush is a little higher than it was nationally, the 77 percent voting for Romney in 2012 among Mormons doesn’t look exceptional.
The figure below shows how Mormon McCain and Obama supporters from 2008 are casting their votes in 2012. Romney holds the overwhelming majority of McCain voters from 2008. However, Obama appears to lose about a quarter of his Mormon supporters to Romney. To be sure, the consequences of this shift aren’t enough to affect any national results, but this is the kind of shift that would matter in a western battleground like Nevada in a close election. What the shift from Obama 2008 to Romney 2012 among Mormon Democrats really suggests a religious group affinity for Romney that transcends party for some voters.
We know from a variety of research that American Mormons overwhelmingly identify as Republicans, a fact that goes a long way toward explaining the high overall level of support among Mormons for Romney. In the CCES, when you include independents who “lean” toward a party as partisans, Mormons are 70 percent Republicans, 20 percent Democrats, and 10 percent independents. 2
The figure below shows the 2012 vote by self-identified partisan identification (with “leaners” classified as partisans). Romney gets only 15 percent of Mormon Democrats instead of the 26 percent of Mormon Obama voters–a much less striking result. In other words, Romney holds Obama under the 90 percent you might expect a presidential candidate to get among his own partisans, but just barely. The religious group affinity some Mormons appear to feel for Romney comes though a little more clearly among Republicans and independents where Romney receives nearly unanimous support from Mormon Republicans and enjoys a 2:1 advantage among Mormon independents.
Religiosity matters too. The figure below displays the vote by party identification for two groups—those that attend church weekly, and those for whom church attendance is less regular (or who don’t attend at all). The religious group affinity is stronger among more religiously active Mormons. This isn’t evident among Republicans, where there’s little room for Romney to improve, but a small difference appears between the two groups of Democrats and twenty point difference exists between the groups of independents.
Support for Romney among Mormons is quite strong overall, suggesting that a religious group affinity above and beyond party identification exists. In the end, the religious ties don’t move many Mormons with existing partisan attachments. Republicans have no room to improve and Democrats are difficult to pull away from President Obama. But among independents, where party attachment is not a factor, the religious group affinity appears to really matter. So, how deep is support for Romney among Mormons? Religious group affinity doesn’t appear to be deep enough to transcend strong party identification very often, even with one of their own at the pinnacle of the American political process, but it does affect some partisan voters and it can really move voters with no partisan attachments.
Plenty of data exists to take a good look at support for Mitt Romney among Utah Mormons (see here and here), but national survey data of a representative sample of Mormons in the 2012 campaign is hard to come by—until now. YouGov—a professional survey research and consulting firm located in Palo Alto, California—conducts the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), a national survey involving many teams of scholars from leading universities around the U.S. The cooperation part of the CCES pools resources enabling data collection from a very large sample. In years past, the CCES has sampled well over 30,000 Americans. This year’s CCES will be the largest ever. The advantage of interviewing such a large sample is that the data collected so far includes interviews with 1,491 self-identified Mormons.