Posts Tagged ‘Claremont University’
“Vanderbilt’s John Geer and Brett Benson and Claremont Graduate University’s Jennifer Merolla have released a new study on the extent of anti-Mormon bias among the public and the best ways to counter it,” writes Brendan Nyhan in a post titled How to counter anti-Mormon bias
… Unfortunately, as Geer pointed out in an interview about the study with Newsweek.com, Romney’s speech on faith in America took exactly the wrong approach:
NEWSWEEK: Let’s talk about the address specifically. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Romney said Monday that he would not focus on his Mormon beliefs in a major speech on religion this week and instead would discuss his concern that “faith has disappeared from the public square.” Based on your data, is this the right approach?
GEER: The data we have suggests it’s probably not a good idea. How much he wants to talk about his faith and the Mormon religion is not entirely clear based on our evidence. But we have pretty compelling results that suggest that if people learn more about the Mormon religion–in a sense checking the kind of bias that exists out there, that Mormons believe in polygamy, that Mormons represent a cult, etc.–that if you check that information with counter-information, such as letting people know that the Mormon church banned polygamy a hundred years ago, and you provide that kind of context, that people become a little bit more tolerant and show less bias. Our data are pretty clear. There is bias against Mormons–but it dwindles once people learn more.
NEWSWEEK: What about a plea for tolerance, like Kennedy made in 1960?
GEER: We gave people the biased information against Mormons and try to counter it with various scenarios, information being one of them–like “the LDS church is big on family and traditional values.” Then we just did a plea for tolerance, literally clipping from Kennedy’s Houston ministers speech one of the passages where he talks about the need to have tolerance. The tolerance doesn’t work. It’s the information that checks the bias. When people who are not aware that Romney is Mormon are given the classic caricature of Mormons, that drives down Romney’s ratings. But the thing is, you can only bring back the ratings of Romney with new information. A plea to tolerance does not work. Sure, it’s a good thing. But you first have to let people know what you’re asking people to be tolerant of. That’s the key takeaway.
The emphases are ours, all ours.
Of course Romney knew all this in advance. Rep. Inglis, David Brody et al. almost begged his imperious majesty to not try to blur distinctions—but rather to admit them, own them, and thereby draw them more plainly. Romney’s response? To do precisely the opposite. Examples:
- eyeon08.com: “Is there any evidence that this poll contacted anyone in Iowa who was not a Romney staffer or supporter?”—also: Romney completes step (1) of the Romney crisis protocol, where we discuss Romney’s response to Rep. Inglis’ admonition to Romney that “You cannot equate Mormonism with Christianity; you cannot say, ‘I am a Christian just like you,’“
- about “the speech”: Evangelicals want clear divisions, Romney wants to blur distinctions, and none of it matters anyway because Romney allowed the moment when he could have profitably addressed the so-called Mormon issue pass him by months ago
- Brody: Romney’s answer to bible question “problematic”