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Survey: Mormons embrace GOP, shun Democrats

Published December 14, 2011 11:16 am

Report • Nationwide, nearly 60 percent of LDS voters align themselves with the Republican Party.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Mormons nationally are more than twice as likely to vote Republican than members of other faiths, and the margin is considerably higher in Utah, a new study has found.

Fifty-nine percent of Mormons nationwide identify themselves as Republicans, compared with 14 percent who say they prefer Democrats, according to the report released Wednesday by researchers from Trinity College in Connecticut. The remainder classify themselves as independents.

Among non-Mormons, 27 percent said they were Republican, 38 percent Democrat, and the remainder were independent.

The margin by which Mormons favor Republicans has grown since 1990.

"I don't think that this is at all shocking for anyone familiar with Mormonism, that there is a general affinity in Mormonism toward many of the policy positions of the Republicans," said Ryan Cragun, one of the authors of the study.

He said the LDS preference for the GOP may have increased in recent years because the general polarization in politics has pushed independents one direction or another, and more LDS voters may have fallen into the Republican camp.

The church's activity on Prop 8 in California and opposition to same-sex marriage could have played into the equation, too, he said, driving down the number of Mormon Democrats because some may have left the church.

Cragun said research has shown that people who leave their faith often do it because they oppose the political positions their church advocates.

"I would not be at all surprised by that in light of the LDS Church's position on things like Prop 8," Cragun said. "I can very much see some opportunity for backlash there."

Within Utah, the correlation between Mormonism and Republicanism is even stronger, with members of the faith more than nine times as likely to be Republicans than Democrats.

The survey found that two-thirds of Utah Mormons are Republicans while just 7 percent of Mormons identify themselves as Democrats.

Cragun said that is likely due to pressures within Utah to conform and the difficulty in being a Democratic Mormon, whereas outside of Utah's homogenous culture, there is more latitude for more progressive views.

Thomas Wright, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said he encourages Republicans to read his party's platform and the Democrats' platform and make a decision on which one aligns with their values.

"People in Utah recognize that the values in the Democratic platform don't align with their values and it's not because of religion necessarily, but because that's where they believe the policies of the country should be," Wright said.

Jim Dabakis, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, said the reason so many Utah Mormons consider themselves Republicans is because the party has done an outstanding packaging job.

"They've been brilliant at creating this image of what a Democrat is and how it's the antithesis of what an active LDS person is," he said. "The problem is that the straw man is wrong and the truth is that overwhelmingly the values and ideas [of the Democrats] are so much more in line with the LDS culture than the Republicans'."

Dabakis said the Democrats have got to do a better job of showing Mormon voters that they are not ideological extremists like those in the Republican Party, and are committed to solving problems.

But Wright said Republicans have been successful because Utahns like the results.

"I think what Chairman Dabakis might be trying to do is create a Utah brand of the Democratic Party that is different than what he's stuck with nationally right now," Wright said.

Officially, the LDS Church is politically neutral, although it urges its members to be politically active and participate in elections.

However, the church has occasionally been involved in political causes, like opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment and support for California's Prop 8, that were more aligned with the Republican Party.

Quin Monson, associate director for the Center for Studies of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, which is owned by the LDS Church, said the reason Mormons favor the GOP sprang up in the late '60s and early '70s and have become ingrained, especially in Utah.

"It's a long-term trend that has to do with social issues and national party positions," he said.

Dabakis said that, nationally, if Republicans reject Mitt Romney as their candidate, it could also affect partisan attitudes. He said Romney and Jon Huntsman — both of whom are Mormon — are the "two sane people" in the field.

But he said the GOP is "simply not going to let an LDS person get the nomination," he said. "After all this loyalty for all these years, it's like spit in the face." —

About the study

The Trinity College study was based on a 1990 survey of more than 113,000 Americans, and a follow-up survey in 2008 of more than 53,000 Americans. There were 1,742 Mormons in the 1990 study and 783 in the second sample.