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Poll: Majority of Latino voters say religion not a big factor in voting booth

Photo by Steve Parker/Flickr (Creative Commons)

While some evangelical Christians have made religion an issue in the GOP presidential race, declining to support candidate Mitt Romney because he's Mormon, a new poll of Latino voters indicates that religion isn't a big factor for the majority of Latinos in the voting booth.

A nationwide poll of Latino registered voters conducted by impreMedia, parent company of the Spanish-language daily La Opinión, and the polling firm Latino Decisions shows 53 percent of those polled saying their own religion doesn't really influence which candidate they choose. Forty percent said it does, though not to a large degree for all of these. From the report:

Although the numbers appear balanced, they become clearer when broken down: Only 23% said their religion has a “big impact,” while 17% said the candidate’s religion has a “small” impact. The only exception is among Latinos who are part of the GOP, since 47% said their religion does have a big impact on their election choices.

“It’s always been said that Latinos have a conflict between their religion and their political tendencies. That they’re usually more progressive on economic policy but conservative on social issues,” said Matt Barreto, a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle and advisor to Latino Decisions.

However, Barreto said the poll reflects no such conflict: “Religion and social and moral values are not among their priorities when they make their political and election calculations.”

The poll confirmed that Latino voters place little or no importance on traditional moral issues when voting: 75% think the economy, jobs and taxes are much more important in politics. Only 14% said moral or social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage or family values are more important.

The emphasis on the economy reflects broader attitudes among U.S. voters as the 2012 election nears. There were other interesting findings, including attitudes about church involvement in the immigration debate and yes, Mormonism. Some highlights:

And interestingly, 12 percent said they thought that Obama is Muslim. He isn't.

The poll is one of a series conducted by impreMedia and Latino Decisions. The compete results can be viewed here.