Monday, July 25, 2011

Ignorance Is Bliss, I Guess

From a USA Today article,
The faith factor in the 2012 presidential race is pretty fuzzy. Not only do most Americans fail to identify President Barack Obama as Christian, three in four don't know Mitt Romney is a Mormon, according to a new survey.
That report is good news if one believes that one's religion or lack of religion shouldn't matter.  However a candidate's faith seems to matter; the article goes on to say,
And that matters, says Robert Jones, director of the Public Religion Research Institute which did the survey in partnership with Religion News Service. The survey, released Monday also found perceptions of a candidate's religion -- right or wrong -- matter to potential voter support.
Jones says:
Religion is one of the lenses people use to decide whether they can identify with a candidate. For all the talk about Romney's so-called Mormon problem, it can't be looming that large for him right now.
A bigger problem is that 48% Americans say Obama's religion -- whatever it is -- is somewhat or very different than their own. They are much less likely to support his candidacy."
Among the findings:
  • 40% of Americans don't know Obama's religion; 38% correctly call him Christian, 18% continue to wrongly identify him as Muslim; 4% says he's not religious.
  • 40% correctly identify Romney as Mormon; 46% don't know, 11% call him some form of Christian (1% Muslim, 1% not religious, 1% never heard of him) despite despite saturating media on the matter in the 2008 primariesT
  • 72% say Mormons hold religious beliefs that are somewhat or very different from their own.
  • 56% of the public says it is very important or somewhat important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs regardless of whether those beliefs are the same as their own.
 There are plenty of candidates who are new on the scene; people can be forgiven for not knowing about their religious beliefs or their stands on political issues.  Romney, however, ran in 2008 and Obama has been in the public eye either as candidate or president for nearly six years.  Not knowing about their religious affiliations smacks of willful ignorance and hints that voters also won't know their stands on issues.  Given the problems facing the country, willful ignorance, however blissful it may be, is dangerous.

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