PRINCETON, NJ -- Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, are the most conservative major religious group in the country, with 59% identifying as conservative, 31% as moderate, and 8% as liberal.
The ideological leanings of Mormons have become of greater interest in recent years as a result of Mormon positions on the moral issue of gay marriage. Mormon efforts on behalf of the successful November 2008 Proposition 8 in California -- which restricted legal marriage to opposite-sex couples -- were in particular subject to intense media focus.
"The 49% of Mormons who self-identify as both conservative and Republican is the highest of any major religious group, significantly larger than the 31% of Protestants/other non-Catholic Christians who can be so categorized."
Although it is assumed that Mormons are conservative, their relatively small numbers in the U.S. -- about 1.7% of the 18+ adult population in Gallup's tracking -- make routine survey analysis of their political and ideological leanings difficult. Gallup's large database of Daily tracking interviews allows for the aggregation of enough Americans who identify as Mormons to conduct meaningful analysis. The current analysis of Mormon ideology is based on more than 350,000 Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted in 2009, including 5,819 interviews with Mormons.
The 59% of Mormons who identify as conservative is the largest such percentage of any major religious group included in this analysis. The next-most-conservative group are Protestants (including non-Catholic Christians), with 46% identifying as conservative. (This review does not include analysis of specific denominations into which Protestants can be subdivided, of which there are hundreds.) Thirty-nine percent of Catholics are conservative. Less than a quarter of Jews, Muslims, those who identify with other religions, and those with no religious identity identify as conservatives.
Mormons' conservatism is also apparent from a review of the more detailed self-categorization of ideology included in Gallup's daily tracking.
The 16% of Mormons who categorize themselves as very conservative is the largest percentage for any of the major religious groups, while the 1% who are "very liberal" is the smallest.
A recent Gallup analysis showed that Mormons have the highest percentage identification with the Republican Party of any major religious group.
It is thus not surprising to find that the 49% of Mormons who self-identify as both conservative and Republican is the highest of any major religious group, significantly larger than the 31% of Protestants/other non-Catholic Christians who can be so categorized.
Active and Lapsed Mormons
Seventy-nine percent of Mormons attend religious services weekly, almost every week, or monthly. That compares to 53% of the overall American adult population who attend this frequently. Mormons' self-reported church attendance is the highest of any of the major religious groups used in this analysis.
The 20% of those who identify as Mormons and at the same time report seldom or never attending church can be classified as "lapsed Mormons." (It is assumed that there are others in America who were raised Mormon but who today have either a different religious identity or no religious identity at all. They are not included in this analysis.) The identifying factor of interest concerning "lapsed Mormons" as defined here is the fact that these individuals continue to identify with the Mormon faith despite being religiously inactive.
The data show that these lapsed Mormons are substantially different in ideology from their fellow Mormons who remain active in the church (as defined by attendance at church services). In fact, lapsed Mormons are essentially no different from all other non-Mormons in terms of their basic ideology.
As can be seen in the accompanying graph, removing the one-fifth of Mormons who are lapsed in their faith from the overall sample of Mormons leaves an even more conservative group of active Mormons. Almost two-thirds of this latter group identify as conservative.
Lapsed Mormons are also more similar to all other non-Mormon Americans than to active Mormons in terms of the party/ideology categorization.
Mormons Living in Utah vs. Those Living Elsewhere
Gallup's 2009 data show that 34% of adult Mormons live in Utah. Utah became the major center of the Latter-day Saints when the Brigham Young-led group fled westward in the 1840s after being persecuted in New York state, Missouri, and Illinois. The headquarters of the Mormon church today remains in Salt Lake City.
However, whether a Mormon lives in Utah does not appear to make a significant difference in his or her ideology. The percentage of Mormons living in Utah who are conservative is little different from the conservative percentage among Mormons living elsewhere in the United States.
It is interesting to note that Mormons living outside of Utah are slightly less likely to be frequent church attenders than are Mormons living in Utah. The former group, however, still reports church attendance that is significantly above the U.S. average.
Mormons are both the most Republican and the most conservative of any of the major religious groups in the U.S. today.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 353,845 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in 2009, as part of Gallup Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point. Results for Americans who identify as Mormon are based on telephone interviews with 5,819 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted during 2009. For results based on the sample of Mormons, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones and cellular phones.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.