U.S. understanding of Mormons changed little in 2012, Pew poll shows

By Joe Walker

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Dec. 15 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, greet supporters during a campaign stop at Hires Big H on 700 East and 400 South in Salt Lake City on June 24. The intense media scrutiny of the 2012 U.S presidential campaign appears to have made little difference in American understanding and awareness of Mormonism, according to information released Friday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

The intense media scrutiny of the 2012 U.S presidential campaign appears to have made little difference in American understanding and awareness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to information released Friday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The survey, conducted Dec. 5-9 among 1,503 American adults, shows that 82 percent of Americans say they learned little or nothing about the LDS faith during the presidential campaign that involved a prominent Mormon, Mitt Romney. Survey respondents were also unable to correctly answer basic questions about LDS history and doctrine.

“And 3-in-10 Americans continue to consider the Mormon religion a non-Christian faith,” the survey report said, “though there appears to be some warming of attitudes toward Mormonism, especially among religious groups that voted heavily for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.”

That warming is reflected in the answers respondents gave when asked for one-word impressions of Mormonism.

“More Americans mention positive terms such as ‘good people,’ ‘dedicated’ and ‘honest’ than did so one year ago (24 percent today vs. 18 percent in 2011),” the report indicated. “Impressions of Mormonism using positive descriptors is up among several religious groups, including white evangelical Protestants, white mainline Protestants and white Catholics — all groups that favored Romney in the election.”

Similarly, the survey found that the general public is “a bit less likely to see the Mormon religion as ‘very different’ from their own beliefs.

“White mainline Protestants (a group that voted 54 percent to 44 percent for Romney over President Obama) are especially likely to have warmed up to Mormonism in the past year,” the report noted. “Roughly 4-in-10 (42 percent) now see the Mormon religion and their own beliefs as having a lot in common, up 14 points from 28 percent in November 2011.”

What has not changed is American views on whether or not the LDS Church is a Christian faith. A little more than half of the respondents (53 percent) say Mormons are Christians, while 30 percent say they are not and 17 percent have no opinion. That number is essentially the same as it was last year.

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