, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 277-299
Date: 18 May 2012

The Stained Glass Ceiling: Social Contact and Mitt Romney’s “Religion Problem”

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Abstract

Why did Mitt Romney face antagonism toward his Mormon religion in the 2008 election? Using experiments conducted in the real time of the campaign, we test voters’ reactions to information about Romney’s religious background. We find that voters were concerned specifically with Romney’s religious affiliation, not simply with the fact that he is religious. Furthermore, concern over Romney’s Mormonism dwarfed concerns about the religious backgrounds of Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee. We find evidence for a curvilinear hypothesis linking social contact with Mormons and reaction to information about Romney’s Mormonism. Voters who have no personal exposure to Mormons are most likely to be persuaded by both negative and positive information about the Mormon faith, while voters who have sustained personal contact with Mormons are the least likely to be persuaded either way. Voters with moderate contact, however, react strongly to negative information about the religion but are not persuaded by countervailing positive information.