President Obama isn’t popular with Mormons, according to a new Gallup poll. While 44 percent of Catholics and 37 percent of Protestants approve of the president’s job performance, only 18 percent of Mormons do. The 78 percent disapproval rate among Mormons was 20 percent higher than it was for Protestants.
Why there is such intense disapproval of the president? One likely reason is that Obama defeated Mitt Romney, who many Latter-day Saints hoped would become the first LDS president.
However, President Obama was not very popular among LDS Church members even before the 2012 election. In 2009, only 38 percent of Utahns approved of the president’s job performance. The year before, when he won 52 percent of the vote nationally, Utah voters gave him 34 percent. (In 2012, he won 25 percent against Romney.)
This suggests that Utahns’ disapproval goes beyond the job Obama is doing to the person himself. Yet, let me suggest three reasons why Latter-day Saints should think better of the president personally.
First, the president is a devoted father. President Obama spends more time with his family than previous presidents with young children. In fact, he has been criticized for not attending dinner parties in Washington and socializing more. In response, he told a reporter that at 6:30 p.m. “we want to be at the dinner table with our kids. And I want to be helping with their homework.” The president explained that rather than being anti-social, his emphasis on his children “really has more to do with the stage we are in our lives.”
The president’s attempts to be a good father contrast with his own upbringing by a single mother and his grandparents. He said that experience led him to “wonder what my life would have been like had he been a greater presence. That’s why I’ve tried to so hard to be a good dad for my children.”
Second, President Obama is respectful of the LDS Church. Twice, he has invited President Dieter Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, to meet with him in the White House to discuss immigration reform. The last time President Uchtdorf visited with the president, he was among only six religious leaders who received an invitation.
Third, the president is a religious person who has committed himself to Christ. Raised without religion, in his 20s, President Obama chose to become a Christian. When President Uchtdorf attended a prayer breakfast with religious leaders earlier this year, he recounted that he was impressed to see the president “preach to the preachers and quote scriptures.” He said: “You could see he knows the scriptures and uses them wisely.”
According to the Church News, in his remarks at the prayer breakfast, President Obama said that at this Easter week, “We recognize that there’s a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we’re also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God. We’re reminded how He loves us so deeply that He gave His Only Begotten Son so that we might live through Him.”
Not only should Latter-day Saints be drawn to President Obama personally, but they should consider how his policies have helped us. President Obama ended the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which means LDS young men and women in the military will avoid injury or death in those wars. Obamacare has provided many LDS families access to affordable health insurance. Now, fewer LDS families will face possible bankruptcy over medical bills or forego doctors’ visits for their children due to the lack of health insurance coverage. Also, the stimulus bill in 2009 proposed by the president saved the jobs of millions of Americans, including many LDS members who worked in education, transportation, health care and construction.
There is a lot for LDS Church members to like about President Obama and his job performance. It is time for Latter-day Saints to start concentrating on them.
Richard Davis is a professor of political science at Brigham Young University. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of BYU.