Finds American Mormons Certain in Their Beliefs, Uncertain of Their Place in Society
D.C. – With Mitt
Romney and Jon Huntsman, Jr. vying for the GOP presidential nomination, a popular
Broadway musical about Mormons, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints (LDS) running an extensive television campaign featuring ordinary
Mormons, many say that America is in the midst of a “Mormon moment.” But how do
Mormons themselves, who make up nearly 2% of the U.S. public, feel about the
media spotlight, the election campaign and their place in America? In the first
nationally representative survey focused exclusively on Mormons
ever published by a non-LDS research organization, the Pew Research Center’s
Forum on Religion & Public Life finds a mixed picture. Many Mormons feel
they are misunderstood, discriminated against and not accepted by other
Americans as part of mainstream society. Yet, at the same time, a majority of
Mormons think that acceptance of Mormonism is rising. Overwhelmingly, they are
satisfied with their lives and content with their communities. And most say
they think the country is ready to elect a Mormon president.
Conducted between Oct. 25 and Nov. 16, 2011, among a
national sample of 1,019 respondents who currently describe their religion as
Mormon, the comprehensive survey, Mormons
in America: Certain in Their Beliefs, Uncertain of Their Place in Society, explores Mormons’ religious
beliefs and practices, political ideology, views on moral and social issues,
and attitudes toward faith, family life, the media and society.
(62%) say the American people as a whole are uninformed about Mormonism. Nearly
half (46%) say that Mormons face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. today –
which is higher than the percentage who say the same about blacks (31%) and
atheists (13%). Two-thirds (68%) say the American people as a whole do not see
Mormonism as part of mainstream American society. And when asked to describe in
their own words the most important problems facing Mormons living in the United
States today, 56% cite misperceptions about Mormonism, discrimination, lack of
acceptance in American society and the like.
Yet most U.S.
Mormons also think acceptance of Mormonism is on the rise, with 63% saying the
American people are becoming more likely to see Mormonism as part of mainstream
society. And 56% of those surveyed say the American people are ready for a
key findings include:
share many of the religious practices and beliefs of traditional Christianity.
Three-quarters of Mormons (77%) say they attend religious services at least
once a week, 79% say they donate 10% of their earnings to the church, 83% say
they pray every day and fully 98% say they believe in the resurrection of
are a number of tenets that are central to the teachings of the
LDS Church and widely accepted by Mormons that are distinct from traditional
Christianity. Nine-in-ten Mormons believe that the president of the LDS Church
is a prophet of God (94%) and that the Book of Mormon was written by ancient
prophets (91%). Similarly large numbers believe that families can be bound
together eternally in temple ceremonies (95%) and that God the Father and Jesus
Christ are separate, physical beings (94%).
are nearly unanimous in describing Mormonism as a Christian religion, with 97%
expressing this point of view. When asked to volunteer the one word that best
describes Mormons, the most common response from those surveyed was “Christian”
or “Christ-centered” (17%). By contrast, many non-Mormons do not see Mormonism
as a Christian faith. A November 2011 Pew Research Center survey found that
one-third of non-Mormon U.S. adults (32%) say the Mormon faith is not a
Christian religion, and an additional 17% are unsure whether Mormonism is
Christian. And in an open-ended question asking what one word best describes
the Mormon religion, the same survey found that the most commonly offered
response was “cult.”
and white evangelical Protestants resemble each other and stand out from the
broader public in that majorities of both groups exhibit high levels of
religious commitment. Nonetheless, Mormons perceive hostility directed toward
them from evangelical Christians. Fully half of those surveyed (50%) say that
evangelical Christians are generally unfriendly toward Mormons, compared with
21% who think evangelicals are neutral toward Mormons and 18% who say
evangelicals are friendly toward Mormonism.
place a high priority on family life. Large majorities say that being a good
parent (81%) and having a successful marriage (73%) are among their most
important goals in life, far surpassing the numbers in the general public who
say the same.
Mormons are quite conservative and supportive of the Republican Party.
Two-thirds of Mormons (66%) describe themselves as politically conservative,
and three-quarters of Mormon voters (74%) identify with or lean toward the
four-in-ten Mormons (39%) say the GOP is friendly toward Mormons, more than
twice the percentage that says the Democratic Party is friendly toward Mormons
(17%). Mormon Republicans and Republican leaners are much more apt to say the
GOP is friendly toward Mormons than to say this about the Democratic Party (45%
vs. 14%). On the other hand, nearly as many Mormon Democrats and Democratic
leaners view the GOP as friendly toward Mormons (30%) as say this about the
Democratic Party (33%).
majority of Mormons say that most (53%) or all (4%) of their close friends are
Mormon, while 33% say only some of their close friends are Mormon and 10% say
hardly any or none of their close friends are Mormon. Friendship networks that
consist mostly or entirely of fellow Mormons are particularly common among
those living in the West (especially in Utah, where 73% of those surveyed say
most or all of their close friends are Mormon).
minorities of Mormons express belief in certain tenets of Eastern religions.
Roughly one-quarter of Mormons (27%) say they believe in yoga not just as
exercise but as a spiritual practice, and one-in-ten Mormons (11%) say they
believe in reincarnation. Among the general public, 23% say they believe in
yoga as a spiritual practice and 24% say they believe in reincarnation.
of Mormons (74%) were raised in the Mormon faith, while roughly one-quarter are
converts (26%). When asked to describe their reasons for converting to
Mormonism, about six-in-ten converts (59%) cite the religion’s beliefs as the
main reason they joined the church.
survey, including an infographic highlighting key findings, and additional
resources on Mormonism and the
LDS Church in America
is available on the Pew Forum’s website.
The Pew Research
Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life conducts surveys, demographic
analyses and other social science research on important aspects of religion and
public life in the U.S. and around the world. As part of the Washington-based
Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, non-advocacy organization, the Pew Forum
does not take positions on policy debates or any of the issues it covers.