Who Do Mormons Say Represents Their Faith Positively?

When you consider that Mormons overwhelmingly identify as Republicans, it is unsurprising that Mitt Romney is viewed by a large majority of Mormons as positively representing their faith.

In a previous post, we reported findings from the June Key Research poll showing that Utahns, especially Utah Mormons, have a great deal of enthusiasm about Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy along with some concern about media coverage of their faith.  With the presidential race building to a crescendo of coverage, we repeated the questions on the latest Key Research poll.

We asked the 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?”  In the latest poll, 73% of voters said it was “a good thing” compared to 68% in the June poll, a gain of five percentage points.  Among Mormons only, the proportion saying it is “a good thing” jumps to 78%, a number almost identical to the 79% in June.

Because Governor Romney’s candidacy has shined such a bright light on the LDS faith, we asked what sort of publicity individuals expected.  Among all Utahns, a solid majority (58%) believe that the presidential campaign would result in “both good and bad publicity” for the LDS Church. People who say “mostly good publicity” (28%) outnumbered those who say “mostly bad publicity” (7%) by four to one.

The mixed results for the publicity probably stem from the trust respondents have in the media.  57% said that they “do not trust the media to cover the LDS Church fairly,” while almost 30% do “trust the media to cover the LDS Church fairly.”   Only minimal differences emerge when restricting the sample to Mormons.

Media coverage often features prominent Mormons who have enjoyed success in politics, business, sports, or entertainment.  The figure below displays the extent to which the survey respondents believe that each individual is a positive representative of their faith.  These questions were only asked of those who self-identified as Mormons.   The percentages below combine the responses for “Always” and “Very Frequently.”1

There is substantial variation. When you consider that Mormons overwhelmingly identify as Republicans, it is unsurprising that Mitt Romney is viewed by a large majority of Mormons as positively representing their faith.  Romney is viewed on par with personalities such as football player Steve Young and singer David Archuleta (literally a rock star but currently a full-time Mormon missionary).

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has not hesitated to call out Romney on releasing his tax forms or even more directly about religion, receives a much lower rating.  Only 19% of Utah Mormons say he represents the faith positively “Always” or “Very Frequently.”

What predicts responses to Reid and Romney?  When you statistically control for party, ideology, religious activity, age, education, and gender simultaneously, it becomes clear that the political variables, not religious activity, are what really matter.2

For Reid ideology and age matter, while for Romney it is party and age.  Older and more conservative Mormons are less likely to say Reid represents their faith positively.  Older and more Republican Mormons are more likely to say that Romney represents their faith positively.  These results are similar to the data we’ve reported previously about Romney’s favorability rating among Mormon Democrats.

Should Romney be elected, his positive image among Mormons will likely go down.  Few politicians in the rough-and-tumble world of politics emerge with their image unsullied.

Survey Methodology
The sample was drawn from the publicly available file of Utah registered voters.  A model of general election turnout was estimated using age, party registration status, length of registration, and past election turnout. This model was used to estimate a probability of voting in the 2012 general election.  A Probability Proportionate to Size (PPS) sample was draw using this turnout estimate such that voters with a higher probability of voting have a higher probability of being selected in the sample.  This produces a sample of likely voters.  The sample was then matched to a database of telephone numbers and sampled voters were administered a questionnaire over the telephone by Key Research. The survey field dates were October 9, 2012 – October 13, 2012.  The statewide sample of 500 produces a margin of sampling error of 4.4%.  The margin of error is larger for questions that some respondents chose not to answer or for the questions only asked of a subset of respondents.  Of course, sampling error is only one possible source of error in survey research.  Results can also be affected by measurement error (e.g. question wording and question order), coverage error (e.g. counting as “likely voters” survey respondents who will not vote), and non-response error (e.g. the people who responded to they survey are systematically different from people who refused or were not reachable).

**Update: Click here to download a topline report that includes the full survey questionnaire, frequencies for each question, and a detailed methodological report (including details about the sampling as well as response rates and cooperation rates).

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