idea for this survey arose in the early summer of 2011, around the time that a Newsweek
cover story and a New
York Times article declared that the United States was experiencing a
“Mormon moment.” As evidence of the rising profile of The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) – as the Mormon Church is formally known – Newsweek
cited not only the presidential aspirations of former Massachusetts governor
Mitt Romney and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. but also the best-selling
Twilight vampire novels by Mormon author
Stephenie Meyer; the radio show of Mormon convert Glenn Beck; the finale of the
HBO television series “Big Love”; and the hit Broadway musical “The Book of
Mormon.” “But despite the sudden proliferation of Mormons in the mainstream,
Mormonism itself isn’t any closer to gaining mainstream acceptance,” the Newsweek
got us thinking. Over the years, numerous polls have gauged public attitudes
toward Mormons, who make up about 2% of all U.S. adults.1
But what do Mormons themselves think about their place in American life? With
the rising prominence of members of the LDS Church in politics, popular culture
and the media, do Mormons feel more secure and accepted in American society?
What do they think of other religions? What do they believe, how do they
practice their faith and what do they see as essential to being a good Mormon
and to leading a good life?
answer such questions, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public
Life decided to conduct a nationally representative survey focused exclusively
on Mormons, the first ever published by a non-LDS research organization. As a
first step, we researched the sociological literature on Mormons and recruited
a panel of expert advisers, including Matthew Bowman of Hampden-Sydney College,
David Campbell of the University of Notre Dame, Marie Cornwall of Brigham Young
University, Terryl Givens of the University of Richmond and Allison Pond of the
Deseret News. John Green of the University of Akron, a longstanding Pew Forum
research adviser, also offered very helpful guidance.
their help, the Pew Forum’s staff designed an approximately 25-minute
questionnaire in August and September 2011. Social Science Research Solutions
of Media, Pa., pre-tested the questionnaire with two small samples of Mormons
in October and then fielded it by telephone (both cell phones and landlines)
between Oct. 25 and Nov. 16, 2011.
should note that the survey focuses on those who currently identify themselves
as Mormon when asked about their religion. This means that people who were
raised in the LDS Church but who no longer consider themselves as members of it
are not likely to be among the respondents.
this survey comes amid a contentious election campaign, it is not solely or
even chiefly about politics. Rather, we hope that it will contribute to a
broader public understanding of Mormons and Mormonism at a time of great
interest in both, and we see it as part of the Pew Forum’s continuing efforts
to explore the intersection of religion and public life in the United States
and around the world.
Luis Lugo, Director
Alan Cooperman, Associate Director, Research
1 See, for example, the Pew Research Center’s November 2011 report, Romney’s Mormon Faith Likely a Factor in Primaries, Not in a General
Election, and September 2007 report, Public Expresses Mixed Views of Islam, Mormonism. (return to text)
Photo Credit: © Walter Bibikow/JAI/Corbis