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Mormons are the most conservative, poll finds: Being linked so closely to the GOP presents problems, some say.
Jan. 13–On the same day an LDS blog picked powerful Senate Democrat Harry Reid as “Mormon of the Year,” a Gallup poll declared Latter-day Saints the nation’s most conservative major religious group.
Nearly 60 percent of Mormons identify themselves as conservative, the polling organization announced.
“The LDS faith fosters an attitude and culture of thrift and self-reliance that fit nicely into the conservative ideology,” said Deidre Henderson, campaign manager for Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and a stay-at-home mother of five in Spanish Fork. “The LDS faithful don’t look to government to solve all their problems. They look to each other.”
Still, some find the numbers a little over the top.
Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, suspected more Mormons would say they were moderate.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., a Mormon and now U.S. ambassador to China, did not suffer politically when he announced support for civil unions, Jowers said.
The Utah Senate’s newest Democrat, a Mormon, agrees with Jowers.
“I am a progressive,” said Ben McAdams, sworn in Tuesday. “And I know many Mormons who are moderate.”
Respondents who identified themselves as conservatives might fall in a moderate category, McAdams said, if they were surveyed on individual issues such as the environment, health care and even some gay rights.
The Gallup poll was based on more than 350,000 daily tracking interviews conducted in 2009, including 5,819 with Mormons. After Latter-day Saints, the next most-conservative group is Protestants (including all non-Catholic Christians), with 46 percent identifying as conservative. This review did not separate Protestants into specific denominations of which there are hundreds.
Mark Silk, director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life in Hartford, Conn., argues lumping Protestants together skewed the findings.
“Back out the blacks and Latinos,” Silk said, “and the Protestants would look a lot more like Mormons — and white evangelicals even more so.”
As to party affiliation, a survey of Mormons published last year by the PEW Forum on Religion & Public Life found 65 percent identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, while 22 percent go with Democrats. Mormons in the West were significantly more likely than members from other regions to identify as Republican (68 percent vs. 55 percent).
The Gallup poll found 49 percent of Mormons — the highest of any major religious group — said they were both conservative and Republican.
“That’s their party,” Silk said.
And for Mormon officials, that’s a problem.
“The mission of the church is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians, take positions on candidates, platforms or support any particular political affiliation,” spokesman Scott Trotter said Tuesday. “We have said that principles compatible with the gospel can be found in various parties. Our membership is encouraged to be involved in the political process, and it is up to them to decide where and how.”
In 1998, LDS general authority Marlin Jensen told The Salt Lake Tribune that the LDS Church’s reputation “as a one-party monolith” was damaging in the long run, because of, among other things, “the seesaw fortunes of the national political parties.”
The current Gallup figures suggest the monolith remains strong.
Such a link is not good for the church, said Quin Monson, assistant director Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. If Mormons are tied to the GOP, that party “takes them for granted and Democrats write them off. They don’t get help from anyone.”
Even on small issues from missionary visas to immigration exemptions, Monson said, “you do want somebody to return your phone calls.”
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Copyright (c) 2010, The Salt Lake Tribune
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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