Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney: Republican presidential candidate in waiting?

WASHINGTON, January 12, 2012 (AFP) – Most Mormons believe Americans are ready to elect the first Mormon president in the upcoming election, according to results of a Pew Research Center survey announced Thursday.

The Pew Research Center, a public policy research foundation, conducted the survey independently from the Mormon church at a time Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is leading in some polls to become the next US president.

“Many Mormons feel they are misunderstood, discriminated against and not accepted by other Americans,” the Pew report on the survey said. “Yet, at the same time, a majority of Mormons think that acceptance of Mormonism is rising.

“They have highly positive views of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a fellow Mormon, and a majority think the country is ready to elect a Mormon president.”

The survey found that most Mormons consider themselves to be religious and happy in their personal lives.

Greg Smith, who led the study, said the survey showed a “mixed picture.”

“Clearly, this is a population that in many ways still sees itself as being on the periphery of American society,” Smith said at a news conference.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), its official name, was organized in the United States in 1830 and now represents 2% of the US population.

The church is known for its missionaries, its practice of polygamy that was discontinued in 1890 and its expertise in genealogy developed for religious reasons.

A controversy about the church arose last summer at a campaign event when a Baptist pastor introducing presidential candidate Rick Perry referred to Romney’s Mormonism as a “cult.”

Nevertheless, the Pew survey showed 87% of respondents defining themselves as Mormon are satisfied with their lives, 56% think Mormons are not well-understood by most Americans and almost one in two, or 46%, believe they suffer discrimination.

Six out of 10 Mormons believe most Americans are poorly informed about Mormonism and two-thirds think most Americans do not see them as full members of society.

However, 56% believe Americans are ready to elect a Mormon president, compared with 32% who do not believe the time is right.

The survey showed 63% of respondents believe Mormonism is gaining acceptance.

“They view themselves as a group on the way up,” Smith said.

Politically, Mormons are clearly conservative. The survey showed 66% define themselves as conservative, compared with 37% of all of American society.

Another 22% of Mormons say they are moderate, compared with 37% of the general US population. Only 8% of Mormons identify themselves as liberals, compared with 22% of the overall population.

The survey was conducted between October 25, 2011 and November 16, 2011 on 1,019 of the six million people in the United States who identify themselves as Mormons.

Three out of four Mormons affiliate themselves with the Republican Party but only 17% with the Democratic Party. Romney won a favorable opinion among 86% of the respondents.

Nearly all of them, or 97%, refer to themselves as Christians.

However, a previous survey of non-Mormons found that half the respondents doubted whether Mormonism was a Christian religion.