This analysis was performed by Matthew Frei, a student research fellow at BYU’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, in collaboration with CSED faculty. The writing is mostly his. Inquiries about this research should come to Kelly Patterson or Quin Monson.
Mitt Romney’s popularity in Utah is no secret. Last month, the Key Research/CSED telephone survey of Utah voters found that 76% of them have a favorable impression of the Republican presidential candidate. Perhaps a more interesting question than Romney’s popularity among Utahns is how they feel about the effect that Romney’s candidacy will have on the LDS Church. On the same survey, we asked this question:
Governor Mitt Romney is the first LDS (Mormon) candidate in history to win the presidential nomination of a major political party. Reflecting on this accomplishment, do you think it is overall a good thing or a bad thing for the LDS (Mormon) Church?
- A good thing
- A bad thing
- Don’t know
68% of all Utah voters said that they think Romney’s candidacy is a good thing for the LDS Church. When looking at Mormon voters only, that number jumps to 79%. Of course, most Mormons in Utah are Republicans and it is not surprising that Mormons who share political views with Romney consider his effect on the Church positive.
But how do Mormon Democrats feel Romney’s campaign reflects on the LDS Church? A majority (54%) of Mormon Democrats surveyed actually feels that Romney’s candidacy is a good thing; only 14% of them feel that Governor Romney’s candidacy is a bad thing.
Unfortunately, we do not ask survey respondents why they think the candidacy is good for the Church. Perhaps Mormon Democrats think that a Mormon presidential candidate will go a long way toward bringing their religion into the mainstream, even if he does not share their political views.
Interestingly though, non-Mormon and Mormon Democrats have very similar opinions on the issue. Independent and Republican non-Mormons, however, are less likely to say that Romney is good for the Church and more likely to say they don’t know than are their LDS counterparts.
A second interesting question involves whether active and inactive Mormons feel differently about the candidacy. 52% of Mormons who call themselves “Not very active” or “not active” in the Church think that the candidacy is a good thing.
“Somewhat active” and “very active” members of the LDS Church are more sanguine. 78% of them think that Romney’s candidacy is a good thing.
It is likely, of course, that religiously active LDS Democrats feel quite differently than active Mormon Republicans. Unfortunately, the survey sample is not large enough to assess confidently the interaction of these two variables.
In summary, most Utah voters feel that Romney’s candidacy is overall a “good thing” for the LDS Church. However, the strength of those feelings varies across different groups of Utahns. Republicans and active Mormons are especially optimistic while Democrats and non-practicing Mormons have their doubts.[i]
[i] It is important to note, however, that our survey reached a limited number of people within each of these groups. Among Mormons our survey sample includes 28 Democrats, 42 Independents, and 284 Republicans. 325 Mormons survey respondents consider themselves “somewhat active” or “very active” in the Church while 27 of them call themselves “not active” or “not very active.” Among the Non-Mormons we surveyed, there were 81 Democrats, 30 Independents, and 43 Republicans.