Pundits have speculated that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism may hurt him with some Christian conservatives, but it appears that anti-Mormon prejudice is actually on the rise among liberals more than any other group. BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins flagged a new academic study out of the University of Sydney that found liberal anti-Mormonism has skyrocketed since 2007:
According to the paper, concern about Mormonism has remained relatively stable among evangelicals, with 36 percent expressing aversion to an LDS candidate in 2007 and 33 percent doing so in 2012. But among non-religious voters, that number shot up 20 points in the past five years, from 21 percent in 2007 to 41 percent in February. There were also substantial increases in Mormon-averse voters among liberals — 28 percent in 2007 and 43 percent in 2012 — as well as moderates, who went from 22 percent in 2007 to 32 percent this year.
Some liberals might argue that this negative view of Mormonism is a response to perceived Mormon intolerance on the gay marriage issue. But it seems to go beyond that. It’s hard to imagine any other religious belief of a presidential candidate being mocked in the same way Romney’s Mormonism has been. There is an undercurrent of hostility in the ridicule that is troubling.
Is this a trend to be worried about? Any rising religious or racial prejudice is always a concern, but it seems as if there are certain ideas in anti-Mormonism that could become problematic. The theory that Mormons are plotting a theocratic takeover under Romney — an idea that the New York Times gave a disgraceful dog whistle to in an op-ed today — resembles other conspiracy theories about religious minority groups that have been used to justify persecution in the past.