Americas

Americans' Views of the Mormon Religion

Most frequent top-of-mind impression of Mormons is polygamy

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Something about the Mormon religion apparently disturbs a significant portion of the American population. A quarter of Americans in a recent Gallup Poll said they would not vote for an otherwise well-qualified presidential candidate who is a Mormon. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 29% of Americans said they would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who is a Mormon.

These negative attitudes appear to be based on more than just concerns about the Mormon religion in a presidential context. New Gallup polling shows that 46% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the Mormon religion in general, slightly higher than the 42% who have a favorable opinion.

All in all, would you say you have a -- [ROTATED: very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, (or) very unfavorable] -- opinion of the Mormon religion?

 


Very
favor-
able


Some-
what
favor-
able

Some-
what
unfavor-
able

Very
unfavor-
able

Can't say/
Not familiar/
No opinion

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Feb 22-25

9%

33

30

16

11

The accompanying table analyzes the breakdown of opinions about the Mormon religion among relevant subgroups of the American population.

Opinion of the Mormon Religion,
 by Subgroup

 

 

Total
favor-
able

Total
unfavor-
able

Net
favor-
able

Don't
know/
No
opinion

%

%

pct. pts.

%

Total sample

42

46

-4

11

 

 

 

 

Region

East

41

49

-8

11

Midwest

40

43

-3

18

South

40

46

-6

14

West

50

47

+3

3

 

 

 

 

Party

Republican

42

52

-10

5

Independent

43

40

+3

18

Democrat

43

47

-4

11

 

 

 

 

Ideology

Conservative

44

45

-1

10

Moderate

48

40

+8

13

Liberal

28

61

-33

11

 

 

 

 

Church attendance

Weekly

34

55

-21

11

Nearly weekly/
Monthly

41

47

-6

12

Seldom/
Never

49

39

+10

11

 

 

 

 

Religion

Total Christian

43

45

-2

11

Protestant

36

52

-16

13

Catholic

56

31

+25

12

Non-Christian

39

46

-7

15

None

39

46

-7

14

Key findings:

  • Americans who are more religious (as measured by frequency of church attendance) and those who are Protestant have highly negative views of the Mormon religion. The differences in views of Mormons among groups defined by their church attendance are significant. There is a net negative view of -21 points among Americans who attend church weekly, contrasted with a net positive view of +10 among those who seldom or never attend church.

  • Protestants are significantly more negative in their views than Catholics, who are the most positive group by religion.

  • There are minor partisan differences. Republicans are slightly more negative in their views of Mormons than are either independents or Democrats.

  • There is a major difference by ideological group. Liberals are extremely negative in their views on a relative basis; 28% have favorable opinions and 61% unfavorable opinions. By contrast, conservatives are essentially evenly divided in their views, while moderates break to the positive side, with 48% favorable and 40% unfavorable opinions.

  • Opinions of Mormons are better formed in the West, where the preponderance of Mormons live, and are slightly more positive than negative. Only 3% of those living in the West have no opinion whatever of Mormons.

Top-of-Mind Impressions of the Mormon Religion

To answer the question of what's behind these attitudes, Gallup asked Americans to say what comes to mind first when they think about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), also known as the Mormon church:

Next, we'd like you to think about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon church. What comes to mind when you think about this religion? [OPEN-ENDED]

2007 Feb 22-25

All respondents

Favorable
view of
Mormon
religion

Unfavor-
able
view of
Mormon
religion

%

%

%

Polygamy

18

17

20

Salt Lake City/Utah

10

14

6

Good people/Kind/
Caring/Strong morals

7

13

3

Dislike their beliefs/
Don't agree with their
doctrine/False teachings

6

1

13

Door-to-door evangelizing

6

7

6

Weird beliefs/Strange/
Cult-like

6

2

10

Big families/Family-oriented/
Community family

5

10

2

Just another religion

5

8

2

Secretive/Closed society

5

2

8

Devout in their beliefs/
Strict/Structured

4

5

4

Mitt Romney

3

6

*

Don't believe in Christ

3

*

6

Good religion

3

5

1

Brigham Young University

2

3

3

Book of Mormon/Additional
scriptures beyond Bible

2

1

4

Have friends/family
that are Mormon

2

2

2

Joseph Smith (founder)

2

1

3

Television commercials

2

1

3

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

2

1

2

Christian believers

2

3

*

Clean, healthy lifestyles

1

3

*

Conservative

1

1

2

Missionaries/Missionary work

1

2

*

Wealthy/Financially successful

1

1

1

Osmond family

1

2

1

Genealogy records

1

*

1

 

 

 

Other

14

15

15

Nothing

10

10

5

No opinion

8

4

5

* Less than 0.5%

Only 18% of Americans have no opinion or say nothing comes to mind about the Mormon religion. That fact, plus the specificity of the open-ended responses, underscores the idea that Americans appear to have at least some basic concepts or associations about the Mormon religion.

The top-of-mind impressions in general are widely varied, from the clearly neutral ("Salt Lake City") to the clearly positive ("good people/kind/caring/strong morals") to the clearly negative ("dislike their beliefs/don't agree with their doctrine/false teachings").

Of particular interest in the present context are the opinions of the 46% who have an unfavorable opinion of the Mormon religion, displayed in the far right-hand column of the previous table. The same data are grouped by category in the accompanying table.

Next, we'd like you to think about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. What comes to mind when you think about this religion? [OPEN-ENDED]

2007 Feb 22-25

Unfavorable view of
Mormon religion

%

 

Polygamy

20

 

Beliefs and Doctrine

 

Dislike their beliefs/
Don't agree with their
doctrine/False teachings

13

Weird beliefs/Strange/
Cult-like

10

Don't believe in Christ

6

Book of Mormon/Additional
scriptures beyond Bible

4

Devout in their beliefs/
Strict/Structured

4

Just another religion

2

Good religion

1

Christian believers

*

 

Religious Behavior and Style

 

Secretive/Closed society

8

Door-to-door evangelizing

6

Missionaries/Missionary work

*

 

Lifestyle

 

Good people/Kind/
Caring/Strong morals

3

Big families/Family-oriented/
Community family

2

Conservative

2

Wealthy/Financially successful

1

Clean, healthy lifestyles

*

 

Specific People, Places, and Things

 

Salt Lake City/Utah

6

Brigham Young University

3

Joseph Smith (founder)

3

Television commercials

3

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

2

Osmond family

1

Genealogy records

1

Mitt Romney

*

 

Other

 

Other

15

Have friends/family
that are Mormon

2

 

Nothing

5

No opinion

5

* Less than 0.5%

The two most frequently occurring categories of impressions of Mormons among those who have unfavorable opinions would appear to be the long-time association of the religion with polygamy (mentioned by 20% of those with unfavorable opinions) and top-of-mind impressions based on the Mormon religion's beliefs and doctrines. These responses suggest that the negative impression held by many may be a fairly straightforward result of disagreements on doctrine.

There are some mentions of the Mormon religion's secretive nature, but most of the rest of the impressions of those with an unfavorable opinion are actually either neutral or positive.

The next table uses the same categorization to group the responses of those who have favorable opinions of the Mormon religion:

Next, we'd like you to think about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. What comes to mind when you think about this religion? [OPEN-ENDED]

2007 Feb 22-25

Favorable view of
Mormon religion

%

 

Polygamy

17

 

Beliefs and Doctrine

 

Just another religion

8

Devout in their beliefs/
Strict/Structured

5

Good religion

5

Christian believers

3

Weird beliefs/Strange/
Cult-like

2

Dislike their beliefs/
Don't agree with their
doctrine/False teachings

1

Book of Mormon/Additional
scriptures beyond Bible

1

Don't believe in Christ

*

 

Religious Behavior and Style

 

Door-to-door evangelizing

7

Secretive/Closed society

2

Missionaries/Missionary work

2

 

Lifestyle

 

Good people/Kind/
Caring/Strong morals

13

Big families/Family-oriented/
Community family

10

Clean, healthy lifestyles

3

Conservative

1

Wealthy/Financially successful

1

 

Specific People, Places, and Things

 

Salt Lake City/Utah

14

Mitt Romney

6

Brigham Young University

3

Osmond family

2

Joseph Smith (founder)

1

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

1

Television commercials

1

Genealogy records

*

 

Other

 

Other

15

Have friends/family
that are Mormon

2

 

Nothing

10

No opinion

4

* Less than 0.5%

Even among this group of Americans who have favorable opinions, Gallup finds that polygamy is the most frequently mentioned single impression of the religion. Officially, the LDS church has outlawed polygamy since 1890, and those who practice it are excommunicated. But the historical connection of the Mormon church with polygamy, more recent highly publicized cases of polygamists in the news, and perhaps the HBO show "Big Love" have kept the connection fresh in people's minds.

Otherwise, these more positively inclined people talk about the positive lifestyles of Mormons, make some comments in a more positive vein about their religious doctrine, and also mention specific people, places, and things associated with the religion, in particular Salt Lake City and Utah. Six percent spontaneously mention Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Two percent mention the singing group The Osmonds.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,018 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 22-25, 2007. Respondents were randomly drawn from Gallup's nationally representative household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. 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.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/26758/americans-views-mormon-religion.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030