Other Factors Could Trump Religion in Presidential Election

7:39 PM, Oct 10, 2011   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- As presidential candidates continue to stop in the Palmetto State, fallout continues from one of Texas Governor Rick Perry's supporters, that called the Mormon religion a "cult."

Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, has been handling the criticism but it's expected to be a topic at the New Hampshire debate Tuesday. Jon Huntsman, another presidential candidate is a Mormon as well.

A public policy poll shows about 30 percent of Republican voters say they would not vote for a Mormon.

But religion may not affect the upcoming election as much as you think it would, especially during tough economic times.

"My religious faith impacts everything that I do so it shapes everything," said Bryan Beyers, it's natural for him to consider his faith when making life decisions, including trips to the ballot box.

"Every aspect of who I am is impacted by my relationship with Christ," he said, but the Columbia International University Associate Provost knows that's not always the case for everyone.

"One mistake that we can make is to compartmentalize too much, to try to say well in this area is my religion, in this area is my politics, in this area is my job and it's dangerous to just compartmentalize everything," said Beyers.

Mark Tompkins teaches political science at USC, he says the impact of religion can vary by location, even within one state.

"Here in South Carolina in the upstate particularly the evangelical community plays a strong role particularly in the Republican party and they care a lot about religious issues, down on the coast the picture's a little bit different there are certainly religious conservatives down there but other factors seem to play a role as well," said Tompkins.

He says Americans got used to President Kennedy's Catholic faith with time, and sees the same is happening with presidential candidates' mormon beliefs.

Tompkins says in this upcoming presidential election the economy will play a larger role than some issues that could have more of a religious like abortion.

"At the end of the day people will be voting for candidates they would have been voting for anyway, and they might well tell us about religion, but their real motivation is about opposition or support for the president and what he represents," said Tompkins.

Beyers knows many other factors influence how someone votes, he still says their beliefs should be included.

"I would like to think that for those who express some kind of faith, that that faith would inform what they do," he said.

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