Perhaps the most striking news in the Gallup survey is the durability of anti-Mormon bias. For more than 40 years, Gallup has asked a simple question: "If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person who happened to be a Mormon, would you vote for that person?" In the most recent survey, 76 percent of those polled said they would vote for the Mormon candidate, while 22 percent said they would not.
In 1967, when Gallup first asked the question, 75 percent said they would vote for a Mormon, while 17 percent said they wouldn't. The results were practically the same as they are today.
"The stability in U.S. bias against voting for a Mormon presidential candidate contrasts markedly with steep declines in similar views toward several other groups over the past half-century, including blacks, women, Catholics, and Jews," writes Gallup. "The last time as many as 22 percent of Americans said they would not vote for any of these groups (the same level opposed to voting for a Mormon today) was 1959 for Catholics, 1961 for Jews, 1971 for blacks, and 1975 for women. Opposition to voting for each of these has since tapered off to single digits."
But not for Mormons.
Maybe that will change, at least a little, if Romney and Huntsman make it to the final stretch of the Republican race. They present two different faces of the faith -- Romney is deeply devoted to the church while Huntsman stresses his spirituality and expresses a generalized pride in his "Mormon roots." Church officials won't comment on any individual candidate but they do seem to welcome the increased attention the campaign brings. "With the increased conversation about Mormons of late, we are striving to do a better job in joining the conversation and defining ourselves rather than having others define us," says Purdy.
There will be a lot more conversation if Romney or Huntsman becomes the GOP nominee. And perhaps there will be a serious discussion of the acceptance question -- on both sides of the party divide.