December 04, 2007 09:30 ET

For Voters, Romney's Religion Matters: JWT's Election '08 Survey Highlights Candidate's Challenge

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - December 4, 2007) - More than 60 percent of Americans agree that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mormon faith will be a significant challenge, according to a new JWT survey that explored the extent to which White House hopefuls' religious background and family are deciding factors for voters. Slightly more Republicans (63 percent) than Democrats (60 percent) agree that Romney's religion will pose a challenge.

"The Role of Family and Religion" survey was conducted online among a random sample of 1,062 Americans 18 and older. Topics included how comfortable respondents would be voting for candidates of various religions; what role a candidate's spouse should play during the campaign; and whether candidates' relationships with their spouse and children reflects on their character.

"Purists say a candidate's personal life shouldn't matter, but for voters it clearly does. Everything from their spouses to what religion they practice and the way they practice it is under the microscope," says Ann Mack, director of trendspotting at JWT. "After Mitt Romney lost his lead in Iowa's GOP presidential polls, his speech on Thursday addressing his faith and the role of religion in politics could be make-or-break. To borrow from JFK's famous speech during the 1960 election that addressed his Catholic faith, Romney has to convince America that he's not the Mormon candidate for president, he's the candidate for president who happens to be a Mormon."

The survey, conducted from Oct. 18-24, is the fifth installment in an ongoing series of election '08 surveys by JWT, the largest advertising agency in the U.S. and the fourth-largest in the world. More information about the surveys, all designed to gauge public perceptions of presidential hopefuls, is available at

Top-line findings from the most recent survey include:

--  A sizable minority of Americans (44 percent) say a candidate's
    religion plays an important role in their decision-making process, with
    many more Republicans (58 percent) than Democrats (35 percent) saying it
    affects them at the polls.
--  Two-thirds believe a politician's religious beliefs drive a lot of
    his/her decision making.
--  While a vast majority of respondents would feel very or somewhat at
    ease voting for a Protestant (87 percent), a Catholic (86 percent) or a
    Baptist (83 percent), the numbers drop off considerably when other
    religions are cited. Nearly the same percentage (just over 70 percent)
    would be comfortable voting for a Jewish candidate or an evangelical
    Christian. Respondents were split nearly 50/50 on whether they'd feel at
    ease electing a Buddhist or a Mormon. And nearly three-quarters said they
    would be uncomfortable voting for a Muslim, slightly more than those who
    would not feel at ease voting for an atheist.
--  Fifty-three percent agreed that politicians who talk about their faith
    do so for political reasons, with a gap in agreement between Democrats (60
    percent) and Republicans (43 percent).

About JWT

JWT ranks as the largest advertising agency brand in the United States and as the fourth-largest full-service network in the world. Its parent company is WPP (NASDAQ: WPPGY). JWT's heritage of brand-building excellence extends back to 1864, making us the world's oldest advertising agency brand. In 1939, JWT pioneered the first national consumer research panel. In 1988, we created the first research study of consumer lifestyles, "Life Stages." We believe in being anthropologists first, advertising people second.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Alyson Valpone
    Department of Trendspotting