The day before Mitt lost the primaries in Alabama and Mississippi on 13 March, the Internet-based marketing firm, YouGov.com, published an article by Michael Tesler entitled “Evangelical Opposition to Romney NOT Rooted in Anti-Mormonism.” Based in the UK, YouGov.com seems to be a serious organization. Nevertheless, it appears that this author falls prey to the classic problem of confusing correlation with causality, an issue I raised earlier.
Following the results in the South and a couple of days before seeing the YouGov piece, I wrote a post that included this paragraph:
While mobs no longer rage in the South, feelings of ill will are obliquely mentioned in the press (“Romney fails to attract the ‘very conservative’ in South Carolina”). People looking at that will often exclaim that this does not mean that these people oppose Mitt on religious grounds, punctuating their objections that the most religious people happen to also be the most conservative. Indeed, as any statistics professor will explain early in any course, correlation does not indicate causality. The evidence that the correlation means something more in this case, however, seems clearer than many will accept.
Just as one cannot use correlation to prove causality, however, one cannot use correlation to prove the opposite case, which would involve trying use correlation to prove that people do not reject Mitt Romney because of his religion. It appears that Tesler’s approach in his YouGov article falls into this same category of problem. In reporting results from a study he conducted to support that notion, he cites three different sources of media speculation to the contrary and then continues:
Media speculation abounds that Mitt Romney’s poor performance among Evangelical voters in the 2012 Primaries is rooted in anti-Mormonism—a sentiment that will surely intensify if the former governor loses this week in Alabama and Mississippi. My analysis of seven surveys conducted by YouGov from late January to early March 2012 (pooled n=7,000, with 1,791 likely Republican primary voters), however, suggests that Romney’s religion is not the main reason why he has not won over these voters.
Setting statistical measures aside, let’s take a look at some specifics that I feel provide a different picture. First, let’s consider what members of various Evangelical groups and congregations have said and are saying. While some of these developments will no doubt have minimal impact, taken as a group they counter the assertion by Mr. Tesler and others that Mitt’s religion is a problem for his electoral chances. Rather than taking the time to discuss each instance in detail, I will mainly provide a list of statements with links to the various sources.
2008 Election Cycle
- Bill Keller of Bill Keller Ministries and LivePrayer.com: If You Vote for Mitt Romney You are Voting for Satan
- World Net Daily on Bill Keller’s statement: ‘Vote for Romney Is Vote for Satan’)
2012 Election Cycle
- Sharron Angle pastor in Nevada: Angle In Flap As Pastor Calls Reid’s Mormon Religion A Murderous Cult
- Senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas Pastor: Robert Jeffress Backs Rick Perry, Slams Romney’s Faith as ‘a Cult’
- Pastor O’Neil Dozier: Pompano pastor calls Mormon Church ‘racist,’ calls on Romney to renounce religion
- Pastor Steven Andrew: “God & Santorum vs. Satan & Romney” – Social Issues Control the Economy
The article by Pastor Andrew begins:
The GOP election is coming down to ‘God and Santorum VS. Satan and Romney’,” says pastor Steven Andrew, president of USA Christian Ministries and author of “Making Strong Christian Nation”. “If you want God’s blessings for Americans, then vote for Christian Rick Santorum, not Mormon Mitt Romney,” he adds.
Pastor O’Neal Dozier serves as Santorum’s “honorary chairman) in Florida and adds the dimension of race into the discussion. Hugh Hewitt brought up Dozier’s call to Romney in an interview with Rick Santorum, asking the senator, “Would you speak out against people using that kind of rhetoric in the presidential campaign?” Santorum responded:
Absolutely. I mean, this is inappropriate. I mean, there is no religious test, nor should there be. It’s very clear in the Constitution what the role is of religion in public life. There should be no religious test. People should be able to practice their faith, whatever that faith is, and people should make judgments about them based on what their public policy pronouncements are, and who they are, and what they believe in, and what their record is.
After citing that interview, John Schroeder, a blogger at Article VI Blog writes that he was unconvinced by Santorum’s sincerity. Schroeder, who is from Mississippi and calls himself “moderate ‘evangelical’ Christian “), summarized the results of that interview:
I am not asking if Santorum is a bigot – I am asking if he can effectively defend religious liberty. It seems quite clear to me that he cannot. Whether through intent or simple lack of control of his own organization he lends the prestige of his campaign to people that are clearly bigots.
The potential impact of the apparent bigotry is not only seen in the primaries in Alabama and Mississippi and elsewhere, one can guess that it might be having an effect in crucial swing states. While Rasmussen shows Mitt leading Santorum nationally (37% to 28%), he shows Mitt losing and Santorum winning against Obama in the “Core Four States (FL, NC, OH, VA).” This development is interesting, perhaps even alarming to the Romney Campaign, given that Mitt has already won primaries in three of those four states.
I end with the assertion that despite the fact that bigotry does seem to be apparent in this election cycle, the biggest problem lies not with those individuals who hold prejudiced views that intermingle politics and religion. Chances are they are not even aware of the problem, frequently the situation with prejudice.
Rather, the most serious problem in the current election cycle is that Mitt’s two chief opponents seem to want to do pretty much everything they can to seek political gain from the existence of the prejudice. If true, this would be without a doubt one of the most cynical political maneuvers since George Wallace used states’ rights in the pursuit of his political ambitions. His efforts even had the lasting and detrimental effect of turning the very important and valid notion of states’ rights into what became a euphemism for the politics of race.