Is the "Mormon Problem" not such a big deal?

Andrew Malcolm of the LA Times, (a.k.a The Prince of Twitter) believes he has found some good news for both Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, while simultaneously finding dark tidings for Orrin Hatch. For several years now we’ve heard that Romney could face headwinds in a national election because of “the Mormon problem.” Perhaps not.

Speaking of Mormons, good news for Romney and Huntsman: A recent Gallup Poll found Republicans to be the political affiliation most open to supporting a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the voting booth.

Fully 80% of GOP voters said they could vote for a Mormon, while a near identical 79% of independents agreed. However, only 71% of Democrats said they could vote for a Mormon.

The biggest difference in sentiment appeared in education level, with the more educated open to a Mormon candidate and the lesser educated less so.

While it may be an improvement, I’m not entirely sure I would describe it as “good news.” Yes, those are some large numbers in the Gallup poll saying they would have no issue voting for one of these candidates based on their specific religion. But it does leave 22% who admit that they might be “hesitant” to do so. Last time I checked, that’s roughly 1/5 of the voting population. Elections these days are decided by margins roughly as thick as a cat’s whisker, and taking 1/5 of the votes off the table right off the bat is nothing to sneeze at.

Also, I tend to be suspicious of answers to these types of questions in polls. It’s akin to asking a more generic, “do you think you are prejudiced against xxx demographic” question. Even in the privacy of their homes over the phone, a certain number of people will be reluctant to admit such a thing out loud, even if they do harbor some doubts privately.

Will this be a factor if either Romney or Huntsman is the nominee? The problem is, we’ll never really know for sure.