The Stained Glass Ceiling: Social Contact and Mitt Romney’s “Religion Problem”
- 851 Downloads
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.
KeywordsReligion and politics Voter behavior Presidential elections Tolerance Social contact
- Allport, G. W. (1979). The nature of prejudice: 25th anniversary edition. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Bellah, R. N. (1967). Civil religion in America. Daedalus, 96, 1–21.Google Scholar
- Brewer, M. B., & Brown, R. J. (1998). Intergroup relations. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of social psychologyi (4th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
- Campbell, D. E. (Ed.). (2007). A matter of faith: Religion in the 2004 presidential election. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
- Campbell, D. E., & Monson, J. Q. (2007). Dry kindling: A political profile of American Mormons. In J. Matthew Wilson (Ed.), From pews to polling places: Faith and politics in the American religious mosaic. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
- Chafets, Z. (2007). The Huckabee factor. New York Times Magazine, December 27.Google Scholar
- Feldman, N. (2008). What is it about Mormonism? New York Times Magazine, January 6.Google Scholar
- Finke, R., & Stark, R. (2005). The churching of America 1776–2005: Winners and losers in our religious economy. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Gallup. (2011). In U.S., 22% are hesitant to support a Mormon in 2012. Gallup.org. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/148100/hesitant-support-mormon-2012.aspx.
- Givens, T. (1997). The viper on the hearth: Mormons, myths, and the construction of heresy. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Green, J. C. (2007). The faith factor: How religion influences American elections. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Green, J. C. (2010). Religious diversity and American politics: A view from the polls. In A. Wolfe & I. Katznelson (Eds.), Religion and democracy in the United States: Danger or opportunity?. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Green, J. C., & Silk, M. (2009). No saints need apply. Religion in the News, 11(3), 4–7. 26.Google Scholar
- Herberg, W. (1955). Protestant, Catholic, Jew: An essay in American religious sociology. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.Google Scholar
- Hogg, M. A., & Abrams, D. (1988). Social identifications. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Jones, J. M. (2007). Some Americans reluctant to vote for Mormon, 72-year-old presidential candidates: Strong support for black, women, Catholic candidates. Gallup News Service. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/26611/Some-Americans-Reluctant-Vote-Mormon-72YearOld-Presidential-Candidates.aspx.
- Kinder, D. R. (1998). Opinion and action in the realm of politics. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (4th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
- Layman, G. C., Kalkan, K. O., & Green, J. C. (n.d.) A Muslim president? Explaining misperceptions about Barack Obama’s faith in the 2008 presidential election. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
- Linker, D. (2006). The big test. The New Republic, December 23.Google Scholar
- McDermott, M. (n.d.). Is America ready for a Mormon president? Americans’ views of Mormons and the Romneys’ presidential runs. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
- Monson, J. Q., & Riding, S. (2009). Social equality norms for race, gender, and religion in the American public during the 2008 presidential primaries. Paper presented at The Transformative Election of 2008 Conference, Ohio State University, October 1–4.Google Scholar
- Pettigrew, T. F., & Tropp, L. R. (2000). Does intergroup contact reduce prejudice? Recent meta-analytic findings. In S. Oskamp (Ed.), Reducing prejudice and discrimination. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. (2006). Many Americans uneasy with mix of religion and politics. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Many-Americans-Uneasy-with-Mix-of-Religion-and-Politics.aspx.
- Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. (2007a). Politics and elections: How the public perceives Romney, Mormons. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/How-the-Public-Perceives-Romney-Mormons.aspx.
- Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. (2007b). Clinton and Giuliani seen as not highly religious; Romney’s religion raises concerns. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Clinton-and-Giuliani-Seen-as-Not-Highly-Religious-Romneys-Religion-Raises-Concerns.aspx.
- Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. (2011a). Republican candidates stir little enthusiasm. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://www.people-press.org/files/legacy-pdf/06-02-11%202012%20Campaign%20Release.pdf.
- Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. (2011b). Romney’s Mormon faith likely a factor in primaries, not in a general election. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://www.pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Romneys-Mormon-Faith-Likely-a-Factor-in-Primaries-Not-in-a-General-Election.aspx.
- Putnam, R. D., & Campbell, D. E. (2010). American grace: How religion divides and unites us. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
- Romney, M. (2007). Faith in America. Speech delivered at the George Bush Presidential Library, College Station, TX, December 6.Google Scholar
- Spencer, J. (2007). Critics target Romney’s Mormonism. Spartanburg Herald-Journal, May 11.Google Scholar
- Steensland, B., Park, J. Z., Regnerus, M. D., Robinson, L. D., Bradford Wilcox, W., & Woodberry, R. D. (2000). The measure of American religion: Toward improving the state of the art. Social Forces, 79, 291–318.Google Scholar
- Tajfel, H. (1982). Social identity and intergroup relations. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations. Chicago: Nelson-Hall.Google Scholar
- Tomz, M., Wittenberg, J., & King, G. (2003). CLARIFY: Software for interpreting and presenting statistical results. Journal of Statistical Software, 8(1).Google Scholar
- Weisberg, J. (2006). Romney’s religion. A Mormon president? No way. Slate, December 20. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_big_idea/2006/12/romneys_religion.html.