Poll: Romney got a smaller share of the Mormon vote than Bush did?

Only slightly smaller, but still.

At the Corner, they’re wondering whether these numbers were skewed by the fact that Utah and Idaho weren’t exit-polled this year. I don’t think so. There were no intensive exit polls of those states individually, but the people responsible for the comprehensive national exit poll said a few months ago that they’d include voters from all 50 in that one. Mormons in Utah should be represented.

Shocking or no, then? I wouldn’t have guessed that the first Mormon nominee might keep pace with Bush among evangelicals (and far outpace McCain) while slipping a bit with members of his own faith. But maybe Bush simply maxed out the Mormon vote in 2004, possibly due to the greater focus on social issues in the campaign that year or possibly due to a better GOTV effort. Or, more likely, maybe the same demographic forces that are affecting the rest of the country are affecting Mormons too. We’re talking about a small shift here, from 80% backing for Bush to 78% for Mitt, but there might now be enough of a “generation gap” between older and younger Mormons to account for that:

“A lot of younger Mormons—those born in the last twenty years—really grew up in that environment,” says Bowman. “They feel at home in America. While their parents tend to be social conservatives, these younger people are less so. They are more culturally comfortable in the United States, and many of them tend to be more liberal.”…

As president of the student chapter of BYU’s Political Affairs Society, David Romney says Mormons have a “wide variety of political views.” From what he observes on campus, there are many young people on both sides of the spectrum who want to get involved in the political sphere. “But having a Mormon running for president is not shaping those people’s views.”

Back in May, RCP noted a “significant subsection of younger, liberal-leaning church members who are emphatic supporters of Obama and who cannot relate to Romney as a politician, despite their shared faith.” For a mirror image of that, consider that having Joe Lieberman on the ticket as the first Jewish VP nominee didn’t do much for Gore in 2000 with Jewish voters. Bush earned 19% of the Jewish vote that year, which was actually a few points better than the 16% Bob Dole took in 1996 and the measly 11% George H.W. Bush received in 1992. Obama has increased Democrats’ share of the black vote but only by a few points; it was already stratospheric, exceeding 90% in some elections in the past. Point being, I’m not at all sure why people believe that nominating someone from a particular racial/ethnic/religious group will meaningfull increase the party’s support among that group, a lesson the GOP should bear in mind before coronating Rubio as a silver-bullet approach to solving their problem with Latino voters. In fact, PPP (the most accurate state pollster of the election) polled a hypothetical Romney/Rubio ticket in Florida back in May. Result: Not only didn’t Rubio outperform other potential VP nominees, he actually caused Romney to lose two points when added to the ticket. Romney’s share of the Latino vote in that poll went from 37% without Rubio on the ticket to … 37% with him on it. Not a surprise, if you believe that Latino voters skew Democratic on policy. Maybe all of that would change if Rubio suddenly achieved historic status as the first Latino major party nominee. But maybe not.

Anyway, I think the more amazing result here isn’t that Mitt slid a tiny bit with Mormon voters from 2004, it’s that he didn’t slide with evangelicals. Presumably they’re subject to the same “generation gap” dynamic as Mormons are. What happened?

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