Americans care about the religious affiliations of presidential candidates. It was a huge deal that John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, was elected. Before he was, he had to speak to a group of Protestant ministers and promise them that he wouldn’t take orders from the Pope or any Catholic prelate.
Vice President Joe Biden, who ran for president in 2008, is a Catholic. During his campaign, it wasn’t a big issue, so Catholicism is probably politically acceptable now for the presidential post, indicating that the American public has become more tolerant of non-Protestant faiths.
Still, Mormonism is a far cry from Catholicism for the public. Meanwhile, non-Christian religions like Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism would fare even worse.
One of the most comprehensive polls of the American public’s opinion on the religious affiliations of presidential candidates was conducted by the Gallup in 2007. It showed the following:
Would not vote for (%)
Thrice Married 30
Older than 72 years 42
Being Mormon, as the poll indicates, is a big handicap.
While US Protestants generally consider Catholicism a denomination of Christianity, many consider Mormonism a separate religion or a cult. A key reason is that Mormons have their own sacred text (in addition to the Bible), the Book of Mormon, which Protestants and Catholics reject as a sacred Christian text.
Mormons are also associated with the practice of polygamy, which the American public founds repulsive. This association, however, is perhaps unfair because mainstream modern day Mormons no longer practice it.
Romney has to overcome these significant prejudices if he hopes to win against his Protestant and Catholic opponents.