New study confirms many LDS stereotypes

Research does not offer startling new info about Mormons

Published: Thursday, Dec. 15 2011 12:07 a.m. MST

Chet and Char Poulton of American Fork are about as close to the stereotypical Mormon family as you can get, according to a new survey released by Trinity College.

Courtesy of the Poulton family

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A new study coming out of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., indicates that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United States are predominantly Republican, overwhelmingly white, well-educated, prosperous and have larger-than-average families. The study also found that Mormon women are less likely to work outside the home than other American women.

Surprised?

Probably not.

The study, based on information acquired through the American Religious Identification Survey conducted by Trinity College researchers in 2008, doesn't offer startling new insights on the LDS Church or its members. But it does provide statistical support for a number of widely held stereotypes relative to LDS political preferences, personal practices and culture.

For example, the study, officially called "The Mormon Population of the United States 1990-2008: An Analysis of Socio-Demographic Trends and Regional Differences," shows that 59 percent of those who identify themselves as Latter-day Saints also identify themselves as Republicans. By comparison, 27 percent of the general, non-Latter-day Saint population say they are Republican.

Simply stated, the study report concludes, "Mormons are much more likely to favor the Republican Party than other Americans."

Stereotype confirmed.

At the same time, the findings suggest "the Mormon community has an above average interest in politics," with a higher percentage of Mormons (90 percent in Utah and 84 percent overall) registered as voters, compared with 78 percent among non-Mormon adults.

The study was co-authored by Ryan Cragun, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Tampa and a research associate at Trinity who is also secretary of the Mormon Social Science Association and Rick Phillips, associate professor of sociology at the University of North Florida and a former president of the Mormon Social Science Association.

The Mormon Social Science Association is an independent organization that was created to foster the scholarly study of Mormon life.

"This is a timely academic study that provides hard evidence on the social profile of a community which is unfamiliar to Americans living outside the Rocky Mountain region," said Trinity professor Barry Kosmin, who helped to lead the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey upon which the Mormon study was based.

"As we approach the 2012 election, Mormons have never been as prominent in American public life as they are today, with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney contending for the Republican Party presidential nomination and Harry Reid of Nevada leading the Senate on the Democratic Party side," Kosmin said. "We hope this new report . . . will help people to better understand the contemporary Mormon population and how it is evolving over time."

Among the other findings of the Mormon study:

According to the survey, 3.2 million Americans identified themselves as members of the LDS Church in 2008. Official LDS Church statistics indicate that number was actually about 5.9 million. The difference is attributed to the fact that the church counts total members on record, while the researchers only count those who actually identify themselves as church members.

The discrepancy is also manifest in the population numbers for the state of Utah, with the church claiming 68 percent of Utah's citizenry in 2008 and the study finding 57 percent. But however you count it, "Mormons are the only religious group in the U.S. today that forms a numerical majority of any one state's population," the report said.

According to the report, "young men in the Mormon Culture Region are defecting at substantially higher rates than young women, creating a growing gender imbalance and a surplus of Mormon women. In Utah, self-identified Mormon women outnumber men by a ratio of 3 to 2."

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