Vice President Joe Biden defended Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney over his Mormon faith on Friday, saying it was "outrageous" for anyone to suggest he should not be president because of his religion.
"I find it preposterous that in 2011 we're debating whether or not a man is qualified or worthy of your vote based on whether or not his religion ... is a disqualifying provision," Biden told an audience at the University of Pittsburgh.
"It is not. It is embarrassing and we should be ashamed, anyone who thinks that way," he said in a long response to a student's question about how his own religious faith affected his philosophy of government.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll last month showed that 66 percent of Republican primary voters felt "comfortable" with Romney's Mormon faith while 13 percent did "not feel comfortable." A Gallup poll of the broader electorate in June showed 47 percent felt comfortable with his religion while 21 percent did not.
"I think it's outrageous," Biden said about the polling data he had seen.
Other polling data confirm a potential problem for Romney. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports:
The two Mormons running for president — Republicans Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman — face a significant obstacle in Texas. More than one in five Texas voters — 23 percent — say most of the people they know would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate even if they agreed with him or her on the issues, according to the new University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
A slight majority of 53 percent said most of the people they know would vote for a Mormon if they agreed on issues; 25 percent said they don’t know how people would vote.
“It tells me that it’s not resolved,” said Jim Henson, a UT government professor, director of the Texas Politics Project and co-director of the poll. “There are a lot of ‘I don’t knows’ and I don’t know is related to doubt.”
Henson said the numbers reveal that doubt, but don’t necessarily say how people will vote come March. “You have to take the Mormon question with a grain of salt, because there’s an acceptability factor in how people answer the question,” he said.
Only 42% of Americans can correctly identify Mitt Romney’s religion as Mormon. This level of knowledge remains unchanged from July 2011, when 4-in-10 (40%) Americans correctly identified Mitt Romney’s religion as Mormon.
White evangelical Protestants are the only subgroup that demonstrates increased knowledge of Romney’s religion (53% today compared to 44% in July).
College graduates and seniors (age 65 and up) are most likely to correctly identify Romney as Mormon (66% and 62% respectively).
Republicans (52%) and members of the Tea Party movement (52%) are significantly more likely to correctly identify Romney’s religion than Independents (41%) or Democrats (36%).