November 23, 2011

Romney’s Mormon Faith Likely a Factor in Primaries, Not in a General Election

Views of the Mormon Religion


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Roughly half of non-Mormons say that they know a great deal (13%) or some (37%) about the Mormon religion, with the other half saying they know not very much (29%) or nothing at all (21%). Similarly, half of non-Mormons (49%) say they know someone who is Mormon, while 50% say they do not know any Mormons. The public’s assessment of its own knowledge of Mormonism and the percentage saying they know a Mormon is virtually unchanged from 2007.

Little Change in Familiarity with Mormon Religion

Familiarity with Mormonism is most common in the western United States, where 73% of non-Mormons say they know someone who is Mormon, and 58% say they know a great deal or some about the Mormon religion. Knowing a Mormon and knowledge of Mormonism is significantly less common in other parts of the country.

Westerners More Likely to Know a Mormon

Among religious groups, nearly six-in-ten white evangelicals (57%) say they know someone who is Mormon, and 62% say they know at least some about the Mormon religion. Roughly half of white mainline Protestants (52%) and the religiously unaffiliated (51%) say they know a Mormon. Among Catholics, 44% say they know someone who is a Mormon and 40% say they know a great deal or some about Mormonism. Compared with other religious groups, far fewer black Protestants know someone who is Mormon (21%) or say they know a great deal or some about the Mormon religion (34%). These views are little changed from 2007.

Stable Opinions About Mormon Religion

Similarly, attitudes toward the Mormon religion have remained stable. About half (51%) of non-Mormons say that, based on what they have read or heard, they think the Mormon religion is a Christian religion; 32% say it is not a Christian religion. And most non-Mormons (65%) continue to say that the Mormon religion is very different from their own religion or beliefs.

Compared with other religious groups, far more white evangelical Protestants say that Mormons are not Christian. Nearly half of white evangelicals (47%) say that the Mormon religion is not a Christian religion, while 39% say it is. By contrast, majorities of white mainline Protestants (62%), white Catholics (59%) and the religiously unaffiliated (56%) express the view that the Mormon religion is a Christian religion.

Half Continue To Say Mormon Religion Is Christian

College graduates, by almost two-to-one (59% to 30%) say that the Mormon religion is Christian. Fewer than half of those with no more than a high school education (46%) say the Mormon religion is Christian, but they are no more likely than those with more education to say that Mormonism is not Christian.

Far More White Evangelicals Say Mormon Religion Is Not Christian

The survey finds little connection between familiarity with Mormons and Mormonism and views of the religion. About a third (35%) of those who say they know at least some about Mormonism say it is not a Christian religion, as do 29% of those who describe themselves as knowing little or nothing about Mormonism. One-third of those who know a Mormon say that Mormonism is not a Christian religion (34%), as do 30% of those who do not know a Mormon.

Mormon Religion in a Word

Majorities across all religious groups say that the Mormon religion is very different from their own. Roughly seven-in-ten white evangelical Protestants (70%) and white Catholics (68%) say the Mormon religion is very different from their own; smaller majorities of black Protestants (59%) and white mainline Protestants (56%) agree.

One-Word Descriptions of Mormon Religion

When asked in an open-ended question what one word best describes the Mormon religion, the most common response is cult, offered by 100 respondents in this survey, or about 5% of the public. Other commonly offered responses include family or family values (57 responses), different (55 responses), polygamy (49 responses) and good or good people (45 responses).

White evangelical Protestants are more likely than members of other religions to use the word cult to describe the Mormon religion, with 11% offering this word. By comparison, cult is offered as the single best descriptor by 5% of white mainline Protestants, 5% of black Protestants, 2% of the religiously unaffiliated and 1% of white Catholics.

Many of the positive words used to describe the Mormon religion focus on the devotion of its adherents: 28 respondents use the word dedicated, 19 respondents offer the words devout or devoted and 19 say faith or faithful.

The public’s lack of familiarity with the Mormon religion also is reflected in the one-word descriptions. While 55 respondents use the word different, 24 use the words confused or confusing, 18 say strange and 10 use the word odd to describe the religion.