Download the Full Report PDF
Download the Topline PDF
Navigate this report:
“Mormon moment” is over, and public opinion appears to be little changed. Eight-in-ten
Americans (82%) say they learned little or nothing about the Mormon religion
during the presidential campaign, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. Most
Americans still are unable to correctly answer basic questions about the
history and sacred texts of the Mormon Church. And three-in-ten Americans
continue to consider the Mormon religion a non-Christian faith, though there
appears to be some warming of attitudes toward Mormonism, especially among religious
groups that voted heavily for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.
are some of the findings from a new national survey by the Pew Research
Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted Dec. 5-9, 2012, among
2012, the public profile of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the
LDS or Mormon Church) reached new heights: Romney became the first Mormon
nominated for president by a major party, “The Book of Mormon” was a hit musical
on Broadway, Time magazine published a story on the “Mormon moment,” and the
LDS Church ran a nationwide advertising campaign to try to improve perceptions
was the subject of about twice as much religion-related media coverage as
Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential campaign, according to a separate analysis by the Pew Research Center’s
Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Forum. During the course of the
campaign, the portion of U.S. adults who are aware that Romney is a Mormon rose
steadily from 39% in November 2011 to 65% after the election.
the vast majority of U.S. adults say they learned either “not very much” (32%) or
“nothing at all” (50%) about the Mormon religion during the presidential
campaign, according to the new Pew Research Center poll. Indeed, the poll finds
that less than one-third of American adults (29%) are able to correctly answer
two basic, factual questions about the history and sacred texts of the LDS
Church, the same percentage that answered both of those questions correctly in
attitudes toward Mormonism, however, appear to be somewhat more positive on two
of three indicators on the survey. When asked for one-word impressions of the
Mormon religion, more Americans mention positive terms such as “good people,”
“dedicated” and “honest” than did so one year ago (24% today vs. 18% in 2011).
Impressions of Mormonism using positive descriptors is up among several
religious groups, including white evangelical Protestants, white mainline
Protestants and white Catholics – all groups that favored Romney in the
addition, the (non-Mormon) public is a bit less likely to see the Mormon
religion as “very different” from their own beliefs; 61% characterize Mormonism
as “very different” from their own religion, down 4 points from November 2011. A
quarter of adults (25%) now say the Mormon faith has “a lot in common” with their
own religion, compared with 22% in 2011. White mainline Protestants (a group that
voted 54%-44% for Romney over Obama) are especially likely to have warmed up to
Mormonism in the past year: roughly four-in-ten (42%) now see the Mormon religion
and their own beliefs as having a lot in common, up 14 points from 28% in November
on whether Mormonism is a Christian faith remain unchanged, however. About half
of Americans (53%) continue to say the Mormon religion is a Christian faith, while
about half either say it is not a Christian
faith (30%) or do not give an opinion (17%). There has been little or no change
in views on this question among white evangelical Protestants, white mainline
Protestants, white Catholics or other religious groups.
Knowledge About the Mormon Religion
coverage of Romney’s faith during the presidential campaign appears to have had
little impact on public knowledge about the Mormon religion. Roughly
eight-in-ten adults (82%) say they learned either “not very much” (32%) or
“nothing at all” (50%) about the Mormon religion during the campaign; just 16%
say they learned either “a great deal” (3%) or “some” (13%).
is also no evidence of overall change in Americans’ self-assessment of how much
they know about Mormons. About half of (non-Mormon) adults consider themselves
to have either a great deal (11%) or some (38%) knowledge about the Mormon
religion, about the same level as in previous years.2
testing factual knowledge about the Mormon religion also show no significant
change since 2010. About four-in-ten adults correctly answer that the Mormon
religion was founded after 1800 (43%), roughly the same percentage as did so in
2010 (44%). Similarly, 43% say that Jesus Christ appeared in the Americas
according to the Book of Mormon, about the same portion that gave the correct
answer in 2010 (40%). The percentage who got both of these questions right was
exactly the same in both years: 29%.
about the Mormon religion is higher among the religiously unaffiliated than
among either Protestants or Catholics. More than a third of the unaffiliated (36%)
correctly answer both factual questions, as do 28% of Protestants and 22% of
Catholics. There is no change in factual knowledge among religious groups,
including the unaffiliated, since 2010. There is also no difference in factual
knowledge about Mormonism by political party.
Attitudes Toward Mormonism
about Mormonism, on the other hand, appear to be softening on at least two of
three indicators on the Pew Research Center survey. Compared with a year ago, U.S.
adults are a bit less likely to see the Mormon faith as “very different” from
their own religion, and they are more likely to mention positive terms when
asked what one word best conveys their impression of the Mormon religion. Views
on whether Mormonism is a Christian religion are unchanged, however.
six-in-ten adults in the (non-Mormon) public (61%) see Mormonism as “very different”
from their own faith, down from 65% in 2011; a quarter (25%) see Mormon beliefs
as having a lot in common with their own beliefs, about the same as in 2011 (22%).
more Protestants say their beliefs have a lot in common with Mormons’ beliefs
than did so one year ago (31% today vs. 25% in 2011). White mainline
Protestants are particularly likely to see more common ground with Mormons’
beliefs; 42% of people in this group say Mormons’ beliefs have a lot in common
with their own, up from 28% in 2011.
religious groups see a less sharp distinction between their own beliefs and the
Mormon religion now than they did in 2011. Among Catholics, for example, fewer
say their beliefs are “very different” from Mormons’ beliefs (58% in 2012 vs.
68% in 2011), while more say they don’t know.
warming of attitudes about the Mormon religion is concentrated among
Republicans and independents who lean Republican. Among Republicans and people
who lean toward the GOP, a third (32%) say their own beliefs and Mormon beliefs
have a lot in common, up from 25% in November 2011. Views among Democrats and
people who lean toward the Democratic Party have stayed about the same.
addition, public impressions of the Mormon religion are increasingly positive.
When asked in an open-ended question what one word best describes the Mormon
religion, more people offer a positive descriptor than did so a year ago,
though the single most common association with the Mormon religion is negative.
most commonly offered word is cult, which was
given by 70 respondents in this survey, or about 5% of the public. Other common
responses are positive descriptors such as good or good people
(51 responses) and family or family
values (45 responses). Overall, the percentage of positive descriptors is up six
points, from 18% one year ago to 24% today.
Protestants (both mainline and evangelical) as well as white Catholics use more
positive descriptors to describe the Mormon religion today than they did a year
identification is also related to views of Mormonism. Republicans and
independents who lean Republican use more positive descriptors of the Mormon
religion (35%) than do Democrats and people who lean toward the Democratic
Party (18%). Further, Republicans and people who lean toward the Republican
Party use more positive terms to describe the Mormon religion today than they
did one year ago (35% vs. 23% in 2011). Overall impressions of Mormonism among
Democrats and independents who lean Democratic are about the same.
and Views of Mormonism
half of U.S. adults in the (non-Mormon) general public (53%) say that Mormonism
is a Christian religion, roughly the same percentage as in 2011.
about this issue are about the same over time among all U.S. religious groups
that are large enough for separate analysis.
majority of white mainline Protestants (65%), white Catholics (64%) and the
unaffiliated (57%) say Mormonism is a Christian faith. By contrast, white
evangelical Protestants are divided: 44% say Mormonism is a Christian faith and
40% say it is not.
white evangelical Protestants are less likely than other religious groups to
see Mormonism as a Christian religion, their enthusiasm for Romney in 2012 was
as strong as that of his other supporters, and they voted as heavily for Romney
as they did for the GOP candidates in 2008 and 2004, according to a recent Pew
of exit poll results.
Campaign 2012 and Learning About Romney
of Romney’s faith rose over the course of the 2012 campaign. Two-thirds of
adults (65%) correctly identify Romney as a Mormon, up from half (51%) in July
of this year and about four-in-ten (39%) one year ago.
Protestants – both mainline and evangelical – as well as white Catholics are
somewhat more likely than others in the general public to know that Romney is a
of Romney’s faith also tends to be higher among Republicans and independents
who lean Republican than among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic
(75% vs. 62%).
1 See the Pew Forum’s November 2012 analysis “How
the Faithful Voted: 2012 Preliminary Analysis.” (return to text)
2 Mormons make up about 2% of all adults in the U.S. For more on Mormon’s
attitudes and beliefs, see the Pew Forum’s January 2012 report “Mormons in America: Certain
in Their Beliefs, Uncertain of Their Place in Society.” (return to text)
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa