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A new poll out Monday examines the effect of racial and religious prejudice among Americans on the 2012 presidential race. The results quantify two takeaways already visible on the campaign trail: both candidates face prejudice from notable portions of the American population, but it remains unclear whether that will actually have any demonstrable effect come November.
Here's how the ABC-Washington Post pollsters sum up their findings: "Racially insensitive attitudes toward blacks cost Barack Obama some votes, and to a lesser extent, negative views on Mormonism hurt Mitt Romney politically."
Because, as the Post notes, polls on prejudice tend to suffer from an unwillingness amongst those polled to express controversial views, the questions approach prejudice from a few different angles:
—Twenty percent of Americans said they'd be uncomfortable with a Mormon marrying into their family, while 14 percent said the same about an African American. Voters who are uncomfortable with interracial marriage supported Romney over Obama. There was no demonstrable effect on voter choice in the comfort level with a Mormon marriage, according to ABC.
—Thirty-one percent of Non-Mormon Americans have an unfavorable view of the religion, while 38 percent have a favorable one. There's a statistically significant 12-point gap in Romney's favorability between the two groups.
—Sixty-two percent of non-blacks said they don't think black people experience discrimination in their community, despite what most within the racial group self-report. Those who didn't see discrimination in their communities trended towards Romney by 25 percentage points in voter preference. The discrimination answer—as well as that of a separate question about views on Mormonism—were predictive of voters' general assessment of the candidate's other qualities, including personal attributes, according to ABC's analysis.
It's not really clear from the poll whether the attitudes of the voters represented indicate any likelihood of racial or religious discrimination among swing voters in the election, or whether those attitudes will realistically be in play in the fall.
As the Post notes, Romney has already most likely stared down his greatest opposition on the basis of religion, from conservative Evangelical Protestant voters. While some in that group won't vote for Romney on the basis of his religion, most seem comfortable supporting the candidate over Obama. But as Politico notes, the results indicate that private discussions among the campaigns on these issues likely have some warrant.