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Choose the right? Prof says 10 percent of U.S. Mormons lean left

First Published      Last Updated Oct 03 2014 02:17 pm

Mormon liberals pushing for change in the Utah-based church seem to be commanding a lot of media attention these days, but how many of them are there really?

Benjamin Knoll, assistant professor of politics at Kentucky's Centre College, wanted to find out.

So — drawing on statistics compiled by political scientists David E. Campbell, John C. Green and J. Quin Monson in their new book "Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics" — Knoll pointed to an "authority index."

Knoll notes that in Chapter 3 of their new book, the authors explore four elements, namely, a respondent's "activity (degree of religious practice); authority (degree of obedience to the institutional church); insularity (degree of social separation from wider society); and identity (degree of self-identification and affinity with the group)."

The "authority index best captures the differences between traditionalistic, conservative Mormons," Knoll writes at The Huffington Post, "and more progressive, left-leaning Mormons."

Knoll concludes that "the proportion of 'active' Mormons who also would either sympathize or identify as a 'progressive' Mormon is probably somewhere in the ballpark of 10 percent."

That number pales in comparison to U.S. Mormons who are conservative. A 2012 Pew poll found that 74 percent of the nation's Latter-day Saints who are registered to vote say they are Republican or lean Republican. Pew also pegged the ranks of Mormon Democrats nationally at 17 percent (other surveys put that number below 10 percent in Utah).

Either way, the estimated head count of liberal Latter-day Saints, Knoll writes, suggests that they "constitute a critical mass that cannot be simply marginalized, ignored, or dismissed by the Mormon community."

Peggy Fletcher Stack