The Faith Angle Forum is a semi-annual conference which brings together a select group of 20 nationally respected journalists with 3-5 distinguished scholars on areas of religion, politics & public life.
“Mormonism & Politics: Historical & Contemporary Issues”
South Beach, Florida
Dr. David Campbell, Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, and co-author of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us
Michael Cromartie, Vice-President, Ethics & Public Policy Center
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: I’m delighted to welcome you to our 20th Faith Angle Forum. We’ve been holding these conferences since 1999, and we’re delighted you can join us.
If you’re new here, you might be wondering why we hold these conferences. It has been our contention that even before the events of 9/11, the role religion and religious believers have played in our public life has been oftentimes misinformed, sometimes misunderstood, and as a result of this, an important part of our national life has been misreported and misinterpreted.
As a result of this important story being misinterpreted, there are many people in the religious community who felt like they have not been represented well. So we came up with the idea of these conferences so that those of you who cover these important stories can meet some of the finest scholars and thinkers on the subject in the world.
One of the things we’re most grateful for is that we have been able to get the top academics and public intellectuals on these subjects to come join us, and that’s what’s happened this week. And we are delighted that for the next day and a half we will be able to hear from some of the best thinkers on this topic, including those of you who have also written about these subjects.
Now, Professor David Campbell is here, and we’re delighted because he is writing a book on the subject of our topic this morning. David Campbell did his Ph.D. in political science at Harvard University working with Robert Putnam, and he’s now a professor at Notre Dame in political science, and we couldn’t think of a more important topical subject or a better person than Professor David Campbell to be with us this morning.
So we’re delighted, Dave, that you could be with us. Thank you for coming.
DR. DAVID CAMPBELL: Well, thank you everyone for being up bright and early this morning for our comments. Thank you to Michael and all the others involved in organizing the Faith Angle Forum. I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk with you today.
As you can see from my opening slide, I’m going to talk today about Mormons and American politics, and I’ve titled this “A Peculiar People?” with a question mark. This is an expression that many members of the LDS Church will actually use to describe themselves. It’s scriptural, and I assure you it is not pejorative to refer to someone who is LDS as “peculiar.” If anything, it’s a badge of honor.
Just by way of introduction, I thought I might begin with a quick story. You may have noted from my short description in the program that I teach at the University of Notre Dame, and one of the occupational hazards of being a political scientist is that occasionally you’re asked to speak on various round tables about elections and such things. And so a few years ago, it was actually during the 2004 presidential election cycle, I was asked to participate on a round table at Notre Dame about Catholics and American politics. It’s a sensible thing for Notre Dame to host an event around.
Well, I went to this event and I sat down and I introduced myself to the audience of students there, and I said, “Well, there are two things you need to know about me. The first is that I am not Catholic, and the second is that I’m actually not even an American. I am a Canadian.”
And then in what passes for a joke in political science, my big punch line was, “So if you want to hear what a non-Catholic, non-American has to say about Catholics and American politics, stick around.”
Well, the next day the campus newspaper at Notre Dame, The Observer, had a front page story about this round table, and the very first line of that front page story went like this: “Yesterday, Professor David Campbell, neither a Catholic nor an American, said…”
So sometimes we’re defined by what we’re not rather than what we are. Today, however, I suspect I am defined at least a little bit by what I am. So let me begin by noting that when it comes to my work on Mormons or Latter Day Saints, and I’ll get to the nomenclature in a moment, I am somewhat of an insider because I myself am Mormon (but I’m not American!)
I mention that because I think it’s important for you to know that as we go through the discussion. However, if I could paraphrase John F. Kennedy in 1960, who once said that he didn’t like to be referred to as the Catholic candidate for the presidency but rather the Democratic Party’s candidate for the presidency who happens to be Catholic, I would prefer not to be known as the Mormon political scientist, but rather as the political scientist who just happens to be Mormon.
So I’m happy to talk about the ins and outs of Mormonism, and today I’m going to be reporting on data that is not Mormon-specific at all. Anybody could have analyzed these data, I hope, and come to the same conclusions that I have.
Let me just get to the note about nomenclature that I mentioned, and this is undoubtedly something that many in the audience are aware of, but it is always a bit of a trick because the full name of the LDS Church has a lot of syllables in it: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And I suppose I should always refer to it that way, but that’s a lot of syllables to say at any one time. So throughout this presentation I will use the terms “LDS Church,” “Latter Day Saints,” and “Mormons” all interchangeably. However, when I speak of Mormons, I will be speaking of those who are actually members of that said church, and not necessarily those on the fringes who will take that label but are not members of the Salt Lake City-headquartered LDS Church. Otherwise we’ll just spend too much time with me repeating the same syllables over and over and over.
So with all that in mind, let me begin with my presentation. It should probably come as no surprise that at this time, as we prepare for the 2012 presidential election, we’d be talking about Mormons. Some have called this “the Mormon Moment,” with all sorts of things related to Mormonism in popular culture. There’s the Broadway musical. There are various programs in television, and of course, perhaps most well known of all, a few years ago a Mormon almost won the most important election in America. That, of course, would be David Archuleta on American Idol.
But maybe some of you have also noted that we have not one but actually two presidential candidates this year in the Republican primaries who are themselves Mormon, John Huntsman, Jr., of course, and then Mitt Romney, who is very likely to win the nomination or at least to come very close.
And so today I will talk a little bit about some work I’ve done in how voters respond to information about Mitt Romney’s religious background, and we’ll talk a little bit about how it is that voters perceive his Mormonism, and then what we might think of as buffers to information that are sometimes provided about Mormons when they run for office.
I should also note that in the midst of “the Mormon Moment,” as this is sometimes called, the LDS Church is, itself engaged in a public relations campaign known as the “I’m a Mormon” campaign. Some of you may live in parts of the country where this campaign is running. I happen to be right now—in Indiana. The campaign is running there.
What you’re looking at here is a billboard in Times Square that the LDS Church put up a while back to sort of capitalize on the publicity surrounding the Broadway musical. I mention this because it’s actually a good example of how the LDS Church has had to, I think, deal with what for many Americans is a negative perception, and again, I’ll talk a little bit about the sources of those negative perceptions and then what acts as a buffer to them.
So my remarks today will be organized into two parts, two chapters. First of all, I’m going to talk about what contemporary Mormons are like, and then secondly, I will talk about what Americans think of Mormons, and that’s where I’ll focus specifically on what we know about voters’ reactions to Mitt Romney and his religious background in particular.
So Chapter 1, what Mormons are like. The metaphor that I would like to introduce here is that when we speak of Mormons and, in particular, Mormons or Latter Day Saints in politics, you can think of them as being like dry kindling, by which I mean that they can be rapidly mobilized. So think of dropping a match into kindling. However, this sort of mobilization can only happen rarely. When it happens it can be intense and effective, but it doesn’t happen very often, and in fact, its infrequency is what relates to its intensity; if this sort of mobilization were attempted on a regular basis, it would cease to be effective. It is its rarity that catches the attention of members of the LDS Church and I would argue leads them to respond.
There are some preexisting conditions for the political mobilization of American Mormons, and that’s what I’ll spend the bulk of my time talking about here in the first chapter of my remarks. So you can think of the following: the Mormons are conservative, and I’ll show you some evidence of just what it means to say that Mormons are conservative. How conservative are they? What does it mean to say that they are politically conservative?
But in addition to being conservative, they are in many respects distinctive, and I’ll show you some evidence today that Mormons do not necessarily fit easily within the rest of the conservative coalition within the United States. They have some fairly distinctive opinions on a number of issues.
They are also a group that are highly active both within their own faith, but also in their communities. Again, I’ll show you some evidence of that.
And finally, Mormons are a very cohesive group.
It is these four factors together that actually enable the rapid and intense political mobilization that I have referred to and that there has been some examples of over the last decade or so.
So let’s begin with the claim that Mormons are conservative. What do I mean when I say that? Well, as I report on the evidence in the next few slides here, let me just take a moment and describe the source of data that I’ll be using. Some of you might be familiar with a book that I have, published about a year ago with Bob Putnam at Harvard entitled, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. The backbone of that book is the Faith Matters Survey, and that’s the source of data that I’ll be using for the results that I’ll talk about today.
This is a nationally representative survey of roughly 3,100 people that we did in 2006. We then re-interviewed the same people in 2007, and we then returned to them in 2011 and interviewed them a third time. That third wave does not appear in the book American Grace because we hadn’t collected the data when we wrote the book, but it will appear—or at least some reports from it—will appear in an upcoming edition of the book, a paperback edition that will come out in February, I believe.
Today I will be reporting from the 2011 data. Everything that I’m showing you from 2011 actually held in 2006 and 2007 as well, and so what we’re talking about is a representative sample of the American population and, therefore, a representative sample of American Mormons compared to samples of Evangelicals, mainline Protestants and all the other major religious traditions in America.
And then at the end of my presentation I’ll show you some evidence from another source of data that we’ve collected that actually involves experimental work. That sounds like we hook people up to electrodes in laboratories, but really it just means you have a survey and you give some people one question and you give some people another question, and you compare their results.
Let me move on to this claim that Mormons are conservative. The first slide here I’ll take a few moments to walk through. You’re going to see a number of slides like this that all have the same basic format, and that is that here are Mormons and they’ll always be in the same place on the slide, compared to Evangelicals, black Protestants, mainline Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and those who are nothing in particular or “the Nones.”
In this particular slide, we’re looking at the percentage in each group who report identifying with the Republican Party, and as you can see, Mormons are by just a hair the most Republican of these religious traditions in America. They are a shade more likely to be Republicans than Evangelicals and mainline Protestants.
This is widely known. I don’t think it’s going to come as a shock to anyone in the audience here that Mormons are a heavily Republican group, but it’s a good baseline as we think about the other political characteristics of the Mormon population in America.
It’s also the case that Mormons are the most likely to describe themselves as very conservative. This is if you’re given an option to choose between very conservative, conservative, moderate, somewhat liberal or very liberal. Mormons are the most likely to say that they are very conservative. You can see that here.
But I’ve also shown you the whole scale from zero to 100 percent just so you can see that while Mormons are pretty likely to call themselves very conservative, more so than any other group, it’s not like an overwhelming majority or even a majority at all say so. It’s only about 25 to 28 percent of Mormons who describe themselves as very conservative.
If I put the conservative line up there, too, then that increases the numbers considerably. It doesn’t change the relative height of the bars compared to the other groups, but it does give you a sense that while some Mormons are happy to take on the label of very conservative, they’re not necessarily all in that same camp.
Similarly, when we look at support for the Tea Party, you find that Mormons are relatively high on their level of support for the Tea Party, roughly the same as Evangelicals and mainline Protestants. If you look at that white section of the bar, those are the people who strongly agree with the Tea Party, and you’ll see that Mormons are a little more likely to strongly agree with the Tea Party than are other groups in the population, but we’re still only talking about a third of the Mormon population. So not even a majority say that they support the Tea Party movement.
So that hopefully gives you a little bit of a sense of what we mean when we say that Mormons are conservative. They are. But we don’t want to overstate that. There is a strong strain of moderation within the Mormon population. But they are staunch supporters of the Republican Party, and if I would have put presidential vote up on a slide, you’d see that Mormons voted overwhelmingly in 2000 and 2004 for George W. Bush, as they did for John McCain in 2008.
And that is where the story of the political profile of American Mormons often ends. Mormons are a conservative Republican bunch, period.
It turns out, however, that that is not the whole story, that Mormons are actually quite a distinctive group, and I’ll show you some evidence of that. They’re distinctive in some ways that make them perhaps even more conservative than you might expect and then in other ways less conservative or at least conservatism with some nuance that maybe doesn’t get quite as much attention.
So let’s begin with an example of where Mormons are quite conservative, and that is on the question of gender roles. On the Faith Matters Survey, we asked Americans whether they thought it was better if a husband and a wife share in child rearing and both have a career or is it better if women stayed home and don’t work. And you can see that by a long shot, Mormons are the most likely to say that it’s better if women do not work and stay at home. Almost two-thirds of Mormons select that response, much higher than any other group in America. So when it comes to gender roles, this is a highly conservative traditionalist group.
But there are other issues for which that’s not the case. One in particular is on immigration. It’s interesting that on the question of immigration, Mormons, as I’ve noted here on the slide, stand out from the conservative crowd. So what this slide shows you is the percentage of each of these groups who, when asked whether immigration should be increased, decreased, or kept about the same, this is the percentage who say that immigration should be increased.
Now, I should note that I have seen other data that has asked questions about immigration in other ways, and the results always turn out the same way, that Mormons are actually either enthusiastic about immigration or at the very least they do not want to see immigration rolled back. This is just the question I happened to have on the Faith Matters Survey, and I mentioned that just so you don’t think this is some idiosyncratic result because of the way we asked this particular question.
And what you can see is Mormons score much higher than Evangelicals and mainline Protestants and a little bit higher than Catholics when it comes to this question of immigration. The only group that is more receptive to immigrants than Mormons are Jews. In fact, it’s interesting to note that Mormons and Jews are the two groups in the population who are perhaps most sympathetic to immigrants.
Now, it’s probably not a surprise that Jews would be. It might be a little more of a surprise that Mormons would be given that this is a highly conservative group, and we usually don’t think of conservatives as being terribly warm toward immigration.
Well, there are a number of possible explanations for this. One that has been put forward is that Mormons think of themselves as a minority group. Immigrants are by definition a minority group, and so they feel sympathy with immigrants.
Another, the one that I find most persuasive is that a number of members of the LDS Church actually work in other countries for 18 months to 24 months as volunteer missionaries. They often do this when they’re young, and in many cases they end up in Latin America, the countries that are sending immigrants to America, and so I think it’s plausible these folks develop a sympathy toward those of other countries and who speak other languages because of their missionary experience.
But whatever the explanation, the fact is on immigration Mormons do stand out from other groups we think of as being highly conservative politically, and this also happens to be an issue where the LDS Church itself has actually spoken out and been a voice of moderation, I think it’s fair to say, at least in the State of Utah on the question of immigration policy.
But I don’t want to make it sound as though everything is utopian when it comes to how Mormons view immigration. Actually as a population, Mormons are somewhat conflicted on the question of immigration. So what you’re looking at here are two bars that compare those who say that immigration should be increased. You saw that before. That’s the red bar, versus those who say that immigration should be decreased. The way to interpret this slide is the closer those two bars are to one another for any one group, the more divided the group is. So if the two bars are exactly the same height it would mean that the group splits 50-50 on those two options.
And as you can see Mormons are actually somewhat more conflicted than many other groups. Compare them to, say, Evangelicals. Evangelicals are far more likely to say decreased than increased; for Mormons, the gap is much less. It suggests that this is an issue that is not settled within the Mormon community, and that would also sort of fit, I think, our understanding of the way this is unfolding as an issue in the Mountain West, where you find many American Mormons concentrated.
So that’s immigration, one area where you find some nuance when it comes to Mormons’ attitudes, and here’s another. On the Faith Matters Survey we asked a question about civil liberties. We asked people to make a choice. Do they think it was more important to protect civil liberties or was it more important to protect personal security? And so on this question you would expect conservatives and Republicans to be more likely to favor safety over civil liberties, but actually among Mormons you find exactly the opposite. Mormons are actually more likely to take the civil liberties side of that question than they are the safety and security side.
And you can see here how Mormons compare on the civil liberties question versus Evangelicals and other groups, and you can see that once again, Mormons rank along with Jews and those who have no religion in particular when it comes to this question, and as I’ve suggested, this kind of makes them look like liberals or at least Libertarians, which is probably the right way to think of it. On this particular question, this is a group that is at least somewhat suspicious of the emphasis that is sometimes placed on safety and security over personal liberty.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: How was that question asked exactly?
DR. CAMPBELL: People had two choices and two choices only. So we forced them to make a tradeoff. The way it was worded was personal security versus civil liberties, and the lead-in to the question made a reference to terrorism so that we wanted them to be thinking about the debates over homeland security and such.
Are there any other questions along those lines? Yes.
SHELBY COFFEY, Newseum: On the immigration questions, was there any distinction made between legal and illegal immigration?
DR. CAMPBELL: This particular question references legal immigration, and so you’re asked whether or not you think we should have more legal immigration, less, or should it be kept about the same.
I have seen, again, other questions that do reference illegal immigrants, and it also appears that Mormons are a little more sympathetic to the undocumented, but I don’t have good numbers on that. Those are just sort of hints and whispers in the data.
Well, let me get to the one issue that Mormons are always associated with, or at least they have been for the last ten or 15 years, and that is same sex marriage. We asked a question that asked people to make a choice between three options. They could support gay marriage, they could support civil unions, but not marriage per se, or they could oppose any legal recognition of homosexual relationships.
What the graph shows you in the red is the percentage of each group who say no to marriage and no to civil unions. The white shows you the percentage who say that civil unions would be acceptable but not marriage.
Now, those two categories together (that is, no gay marriage or no gay marriage but civil unions are okay) reflect opposition in some respect to gay marriage. When we consider those two options together, Mormons are clearly the most likely to oppose gay marriage in the population.
What I find interesting here though is the percentage of Mormons who oppose gay marriage but are nonetheless okay with civil unions, and you’ll see that’s actually a fairly large portion of the LDS population.
MR. CROMARTIE: Define civil unions.
DR. CAMPBELL: How do I define civil unions? Well, again the survey question just used that term. So we never know what’s inside someone’s head when they’re answering it. I would define it if I were answering that question, as I assume many would here, as those states that permit legal recognition of a same sex couple so that they could have hospital visitation rights and all those sorts of things, but not actually call it marriage. At least that’s how we were intending the question to be interpreted.
And so there you see again another little bit of evidence that there’s actually a strain of moderation within this population.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Is there also a great age disparity in there? I know among Evangelicals, younger Evangelicals feel very differently from older ones on this subject.
DR. CAMPBELL: It’s really hard for me to actually parse this particular sample any further than to just talk about Mormons in general, and the reason for that is we don’t have that many Mormons to begin with. They’re a group that’s about three percent of the population. They are roughly the same number of Mormons as Jews. And so even with a big survey of 3,100, we still only end up with something like 50 or 60 Mormons, and so it’s hard for me to divvy them up.
To the extent that I have done that and have done it in other data sets, Mormons are actually a little bit of an exception to that generalization. We normally think of young people being more accepting of gay marriage than their elders, and that’s certainly true in the general population. You see hints of that in the LDS population, but certainly not to the extent that you do in the Evangelical group.
And my guess would be that when we have a larger sample of Mormons, which I should mention I’m in the process of gathering with two collaborators for this book that Michael mentioned, we will be able to say more about these sort of subdivisions within the group; my hunch would be that you would find young Mormons in this group. They’re the ones that would be accepting the civil unions, but I would be surprised if there would be many young, at least young devout Mormons, who would be accepting of gay marriage per se.
Any other questions about that?
TIMOTHY DALRYMPLE, Patheos.com: Are these loose categories by self-identification?
DR. CAMPBELL: The question, if you didn’t catch it, was how we categorize them. They are self-categorization, but not in the sense that we ask people, “Are you a mainline Protestant?” Rather we asked them what their religion is, and we try to get as much information as we can about their faith, and then we take that information and classify people into the various traditions based on what they’ve told us.
And so if you attend a Southern Baptist Church, we classify the Southern Baptist as Evangelical. So that’ how you end up in that category. If you’re an Episcopalian, we classify that as a mainline Protestant tradition. That’s how you end up in that category.
And so for some of these groups that’s easy. For Mormons it’s easy because it is essentially a self-identification. That’s also true for Catholics. That’s also true for Jews. It’s a little trickier for the Protestants, where we have lots and lots of different groups. And there has always been a debate over which group should fall into which category and how you deal with people who belong to a nondenominational church for example, but we’ve hopefully sorted that out to the extent we can.
So that’s how Mormons react to the issue of gay marriage, one of the two big culture war issues, and the other, of course, is abortion. Abortion is perhaps an even more striking example of Mormon distinctiveness than gay marriage. We asked a question about abortion that gives people a variety of different options of when they would or would not approve of abortion.
So in this graph, those who are in the red category are those who say that abortion should never be permitted under any circumstances. The white portion of the bar represents those who say no abortion except for the big three exceptions: rape, incest, and when the health of the mother is in jeopardy.
And then there are other options. One is that abortion should be permitted, but only when there’s a good reason, and then the fourth is that abortion should be permitted at any time for any reason. The government has no say, should have no say in any regulation of abortion.
So I’ve just put the two what you might think of as pro life categories together, and you can see that when you add them up, that is, those who say no abortion under any circumstances or those who say no abortion except for the three exceptions, Mormons look a lot like Evangelicals and Catholics. They’re right along the same level.
Where the story is interesting is the fact that almost no Mormons actually say that abortion should never be permitted. It’s a tiny percentage; the bulk of the Mormon population is saying that abortion should not be permitted, except under these three exceptions. And this also happens to be the official policy of the LDS Church, that in general abortion is strongly, discouraged, but it can be permitted under this small number of circumstances, and this is a case where Mormons seem to very clearly understand the policy of their own church.
And note that I’m using the term “policy” and not “theology.” This is where my lifetime as a Mormon becomes relevant. I have never in my experience ever heard a sermon in any LDS meeting either at a local, regional or global level that was entirely on the subject of abortion. I have heard abortion come up, but it has always been in the context of talking about other things happening in society. So it will be one thing that’s mentioned among other things, but I’ve never heard an entire sermon on abortion.
I mention that because unlike the traditional family, which I think it is fair to say is an emphasis of the LDS Church, abortion is not, at least not in the same way that you would find it within Evangelical or Catholic Churches. It’s mentioned. It’s there. There’s a policy on when it’s permitted and when it’s not, but it’s not a central point that is made sort of from a doctrinal grounding, and it’s certainly not something that is emphasized on a regular basis in LDS meetings in the way that it might be for other religious traditions.
That’s all some evidence on how Mormons are distinctive. They’re a conservative group, but conservatism with some nuance. Let me move on now and talk about the fact that Mormons are active, and what do I mean by that? Well, by active I mean that this is a group that whether we’re looking at activity done within their faith or activity outside of their faith but in their community, it’s hard to find a group in the American population who is more engaged than are American Mormons, and I’ll just show you a little bit of evidence for that.
First of all, when it comes to religious activity, this slide shows you the percentage of each of these groups who report attending religious services on a weekly basis—that’s the red line—who report praying on a daily basis—that’s the white line—or who report reading scripture on a daily basis. And you can see that in each one of those cases Mormons score higher by a long shot than anyone else in the population.
Now, I want to pause here and make an important note about the way these surveys work, and this actually, I think, goes back to the question I was asked earlier about, well, how do we know who goes into which category.
I am not going to claim here that 85 percent of all people on the rolls of the LDS Church are in religious services every week. In fact, I know there are a few other church members in the audience here. They would agree with me that 85 percent of the Mormon population is not in church every week. So how do we interpret this?
Well, certainly 85 percent of those people who identified themselves as Mormons in our survey want us to think that they are in church every week. That’s important to note, and not unusual. Most religious groups in America have that same normative expectation, but perhaps just as importantly, I’m betting that when someone answers a survey question of what religion they are, if they tell us that they are Mormon, if they self-identify, that in and of itself indicates that they consider themselves to be fully within this tradition; I suspect that there are a number of people who may have even been respondents to our survey who may have at some time been members of or had some affiliation with the Mormon Church, but they are not currently, and so when they’re asked the survey question, “What are you?” they don’t answer Mormon. So we’re probably missing some group in the population who might appear on the rolls of the LDS Church because at some point they have been baptized into the faith or they were raised in the faith but no longer identify with it, which boosts the overall numbers for our respondents when we’re looking at Mormon behavior.
But nonetheless, no matter how you slice it, this is a group that is highly active in its own faith. These are just three examples. I could have given you ten or 15 more, but no matter how you slice it, Mormons are a very active group in their own faith. That includes volunteering, which is actually really important for my story about the dry kindling, the idea that Mormons can be rapidly mobilized into politics.
This shows you the percentage of Mormons who say that they have engaged in the last 12 months in some sort of volunteer activity for their religion, and the white line is the percentage in each of these groups who say that they have given more than $1,000 to their church.
Now, this just shows you the percentage who say they give more than $1,000. You might say, “Well, $1,000 to somebody might be a lot of money, but to somebody else not so much. It would sort of depend on your household income.”
I have actually run these numbers where I account for the household income of these folks, and the numbers look the same. Mormons are much higher than everyone else. So I just decided to report the simpler form of the data here.
You can see that Mormons are much higher both in their giving and also in their volunteering, and I should also note that this might even understate Mormon religious volunteering because Mormons don’t go around referring to themselves as religious volunteers. They actually have a vocabulary. They refer to “holding a calling” within their church, that’s the Mormon term. We didn’t use that word in the survey because we were asking people of many different traditions about their activity. I suspect if we had used the Mormon-specific term, the numbers might even be a little bit higher because people would have registered, “Oh, oh, you mean my calling.”
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Just a question. A thousand dollars within what period?
DR. CAMPBELL: Twelve months. And we actually also asked about $5,000. We had another category, and Mormons also are higher on that, and as I said, if you account for household income, then the picture looks the same.
It turns out that Mormons’ household income is about the same as the national average. So it’s not like this is a terribly wealthy or a terribly deprived group.
Okay. Now, that obviously leads to an interesting question though. So if Mormons are a highly volunteeristic group within their own religion, does that mean that they pull out of their community, that they devote all of their time and energy to their church? Their church, after all, has a structure with no paid clergy, and therefore, it takes a lot of volunteers to run a Mormon congregation because somebody has got to do all the stuff that otherwise would have been done by a full-time pastor.
And, in fact, if you were to speak to Latter-day Saints themselves, I have found in my own experience that many members of the church believe that their high level of activity collectively within the church actually means that they’re not involved in their communities. Well, it turns out that when you look at the data, Mormons are a highly engaged group—not only in their own church, but also in their community.
Now, this should not come as a surprise because it turns out that highly religious people, in general, regardless of their tradition, are more likely to be involved in their communities. This is actually one of the major themes in American Grace. It’s true for Evangelicals, it’s true for Catholics, it’s true for any group you can think of, and it’s also true for Mormons. So it stands to reason that Mormons are a highly active group in their own faith, that they would also be highly active in their own communities.
The percentages of those who are engaged in community or civic activity are not as high as those who are involved in religious activity or religious volunteering, but when we look at those civic activities among Mormons, they are in most cases a little bit higher and sometimes a lot higher than the rates in other groups.
This just shows you the percentage who report volunteering for school or youth programs. I will admit the way we asked the question it’s hard to know how people interpret that. The Mormon Church runs a lot of youth programs. Every Mormon congregation has a Boy Scout troop. They have a similar group for adolescent girls. Maybe people are actually reporting their activity in that group, which would be religious in one sense.
If you don’t believe that, here’s the percentage who volunteered for any organization to help the poor or elderly. Again, the LDS Church has an organization that does just this. So maybe people are answering, well, I’m thinking of my activity within my religious domain.
Here’s volunteering for a neighborhood or civic group. It’s hard to see how that would be religious in any nature, and it’s the same story as the other groups.
It’s the same for volunteering for health care or fighting particular diseases or volunteering for any arts or cultural organizations. In each of those cases Mormons are, on average, a little bit more likely to be involved than other people in the American population.
And I should note that in this book that I’m working on, one of the things that my co-authors and I are actually working hard to try to sort out is exactly how much of an average Mormon’s volunteer time is spent in the church versus in the community because there’s often a lot of ambiguity over exactly where those lines are drawn.
We’ve got all of this civic activity going on, much of it within the church, some of it beyond the church and in the community, what does that say about Mormon political involvement?
Well, it turns out that Mormons participate in politics at about the same rate as most everyone else. So they’re more likely to be volunteers in all of these non-political civic activities, but not necessarily when it comes to politics. They’re not any less involved, but neither are they any more involved. This shows you the percentage of each group who say they vote in all or most local elections. That’s the red line who report having contacted a government official. That’s the white line, and the black one is whether they’ve ever attended a rally, a political rally, and you can see that in each case the Mormons are neither more nor less involved than anybody else.
I want you to keep that in mind because it’s relevant to the dry kindling hypothesis that I put forward and will discuss in a little more detail in a few minutes.
So we’ve got lots of volunteering going on, but not necessarily a higher than average level of political activity.
This brings me to the fourth characteristic of the Mormon population in America, and that’s the fact that Mormons are cohesive. In the Faith Matters Survey, we asked a number of questions that were designed to tap into whether people build bridges in their personal lives to those of other faiths. This is a major theme in American Grace. We actually argue that it’s the interfaith bridging that goes on in America that actually keeps our religious diversity from pulling us apart.
And it turns out that when you look at different religious groups and how much they bond, that is, have bridges not with people of other faiths but instead with those of their own faith, Mormons truly stand out. This slide shows you the results from an index. This is a series of questions that ask about whether you have neighbors of a different religion, whether you have friends of another religion, whether you have family members of another religion. Put those questions together, and we can sort of see who falls in the top level of religious homogeneity, that is, the most likely to have friends, family and neighbors of the same faith.
The white bar that I’ve drawn across the slide is 25 percent, and that’s critical here because what I’m reporting is the percentage of each group who fall into the top quartile compared to the rest of the population in this religious bonding index. In other words, if a group falls above that white line, they are more likely to bond religiously than the population as a whole.
And as you look at that, you can see that there are three groups that stand out for their level of bonding: one, Latino Catholics, (but not Anglo Catholics); the second, black Protestants; the third, Mormons. Now, you might notice that there is a difference—
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: What’s the question again?
DR. CAMPBELL: So this is an index that combines three different questions. The questions asked about your neighbors, your friends, and your family, and in each case we’re asking whether you have neighbors, friends or family who are of a different religion or whether they are the same religion as you are.
And so we put those together and calculated this. It’s an easier way of showing the three questions combined on one slide rather than trying to break out all three.
I was noting that the three groups who are the most likely in America to say they have friends, family and neighbors of the same religion are Latino Catholics, black Protestants and Mormons. And you can probably see that there is a difference between Mormons and the other two categories in that the other two categories also have a racial or ethnic group in their very label. In other words, Mormons bond as much as do African Americans or specifically black Protestants. That’s most African Americans in the country. And Latino Catholics. Again, that’s most Latinos in the country.
That is striking, and much more so than Evangelicals and Jews. Why do I mention those two groups? Well, Jews are important because, as I had mentioned earlier, there are about as many Mormons in America as there are Jews. So it’s not the size of the group that’s driving this. And I mentioned Evangelicals because in many respects Evangelicals are a group that have a lot of the same kind of social characteristics as Mormons, and yet you don’t find Evangelicals bonding as much as Mormons.
When we put all of that together, it suggests that this is a group that has a latent potential for political mobilization. They’re politically conservative. They fall in one end of the political spectrum. They’re somewhat distinctive as a group. They are very active in their own faith. They have learned to be involved. They’ve learned all of those organizational skills and built all those personal networks that enable people to get involved in politics, and they are a cohesive group.
All of that would suggest that this is a group that is ripe for political mobilization, but, Paul, you had a question.
PAUL EDWARDS, Deseret News: Oh, a question on the cohesiveness. Do we have any indication about what that means geographically? So since you have a high concentration of Mormons in the Mountain West, is it different for Mormons outside of the Mountain West?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, again, I have to wave my hands and say it’s hard for me to say with any precision what’s going on within subgroups of Mormons, but to the extent I can, and we can look at Mormons just as a crude indicator inside Utah versus outside Utah or inside the Mountain West versus outside the Mountain West. The bonding rate actually looks about the same.
Thus, it is not, as least as near as we can tell, driven by the fact that so many Mormons live in a heavily LDS area. That undoubtedly is part of the story, but it’s not all of it.
MR. EDWARDS: The family was one of the categories. Does that include intermarriage or did you ask separately?
DR. CAMPBELL: That’s a very good question. In that index that I was just reporting, it actually does not include your spouse. We did ask a lot of questions about interfaith marriage, but for that index we only asked about your extended family, not about your spouse.
It turns out, as you would expect, that Mormons are relatively high in marrying people of the same faith, although perhaps not as high as you might think. They’re also extremely high in their belief that you ought to marry someone of your own faith, mainly because that is actually an article of faith of the LDS Church.
The question then is: are Mormons mobilized into politics? We asked a question in the Faith Matters Survey about whether you get politics at church. We actually asked multiple, similar questions. I’m only going to report one here because the story is the same regardless of the question that we asked.
This one asks whether you ever hear sermons on political or social issues. You could say you never do, or that you hear them once in a while. This reports the percentage who say they hear such sermons once or twice a month.
And, again, I want to emphasize we’ve asked about other types of politicking at church and the results look essentially the same, and that result is Mormons are always at the lowest end of the scale. In fact, on this question, do you ever hear sermons on political or social issues, essentially zero Mormons—it’s like one or two percent or some, you know, tiny, tiny percentage of Mormons say that they hear political sermons at church.
Now, again, I put the whole scale here to show you that it’s not like any other group is reporting this on an extremely frequent basis. Even Jews and black Protestants, the two groups that are the most likely to have politics at their religious services, even they are nowhere near a majority reporting political sermons with this frequency. But even with that relatively low baseline across the country, you find Mormons are extremely low.
Now, this doesn’t mean that what’s said and done in an LDS meeting doesn’t have political significance. You might hear a sermon or a lesson on self-sufficiency, and then somebody might in their own mind make a connection between that and their attitude toward the welfare state, but that’s different than having a religious leader stand and encourage you to vote a particular way or to devote a sermon to a political topic. You just don’t find that happening in LDS meetings except on very, very rare occasions, and that’s why I used the metaphor of the dry kindling, that those characteristics that I’ve described in the LDS population actually do enable this group to be mobilized under the following conditions.
When LDS leaders endorse an issue and present a united front, we have seen Latter-day Saints respond quite enthusiastically to the political guidance of their leaders. We saw this in California during the Proposition 8 campaign. You’ll remember Proposition 8 was a ballot initiative in California to write a ban on same sex marriage into the state constitution. There had been an earlier ballot initiative to make a ban on same sex marriage the law of California in the year 2000. The LDS Church was involved in that as well. And so when in the case of California and a few other examples, sometimes on same sex marriage, sometimes on issues like gambling, when LDS leaders take a stand, their members respond, and they respond with, as I said, enthusiasm. So this is a group that has the skills and the experience and the social networks and the issue attitudes that combine that enable them to be a force in politics.
But it’s important to note that this happens rarely, and it’s because it is rare that it is effective. If it were to happen more often, it wouldn’t be as effective each time, and it’s also important to note that the LDS Church has in modern times only ever spoken out on ballot propositions, not on partisan elections.
Let me just take a few minutes if I could and just talk a little bit about Chapter 2. This section is shorter than the previous discussion on what Mormons are like, but it’simportant.
I’ve been talking about Mormons as a group, their characteristics. Now I’d like to talk about the rest of the population and how they perceive Mormons or, more specifically, what that perception means for Mitt Romney, presidential candidate.
Earlier I showed you how Mormons are a cohesive group, but it’s important to note that that cohesiveness is at least plausibly related to the way Mormons are perceived by the rest of the population. On the Faith Matters Survey, we asked a question using a tool that has a very hokey name, a feeling thermometer, which I know sounds like the sort of thing that you would do in a therapy session. Let’s all pull out our feeling thermometers.
MR. CROMARTIE: We do that in South Beach, too.
DR. CAMPBELL: But all this refers to is a question on a survey that asks the respondent to rate a group, a person, a political party, etc. In this case it was religious groups. Respondents were asked to rate this group on a scale of zero to 100, zero meaning you feel very cold toward that group, 100 meaning you feel very warm, 50 meaning you feel neutral, and you can pick any number in between.
So I’m a Boston Red Sox fan. If you ask me about the Boston Red Sox I’d probably say I feel about 90 toward the Red Sox. If you asked me about Theo Epstein, I’d probably give you about a ten. (That’s a joke for any fellow members of Red Sox Nation).
What this slide shows you is how each of these groups are perceived by the rest of the population, and so in calculating this we have taken out members of the group in question. So this is how non-Jews feel about Jews. This is how non-Catholics feel about Catholics. This is how non-Mormons feel about Mormons.
Now, again, this comes out of American Grace. Note that the two most popular religious groups in America today are Jews and Catholics. Now, I’m not just saying the Catholic part because I’m from Notre Dame. I should also note that Jews score a little higher than Catholics, which means the Jews are the most popular religious group in America, but it is my experience that no Jew believes that.
But on the other end of the scale we have groups that are not viewed so positively. So we have atheists and Muslims, and then we have Mormons. Now, I put this white line here. This is the midpoint, the neutral point, and you can see that Mormons score below that neutral point whereas most groups score above.
This is an interesting question. Why are Mormons viewed negatively? Well it can’t be the size of the group. There are as many Mormons in America as Jews. There must be something else that’s going on here.
But before I get to that something else, I love to point this out. This contrasts how the rest of the population feels about a group. That’s the red bar. You just saw those data. The white bar is how that group feels about themselves, and as you can see, Mormons feel pretty good about themselves.
You’ve got this sort of interesting mix. This is a group that’s negatively perceived by everybody else, that feels positive about themselves. That sure feels like a beleaguered minority. That sort of feels like a group that is embattled, and there’s some good reason for Mormons to feel embattled that way. Let me show you a bit of data on presidential candidates.
Going all the way back to the 1960s, the Gallup poll has asked people how they would feel about a Mormon presidential candidate. Now, they’ve asked this of lots of different groups. It goes back even further for Jews and women and blacks, but this just shows you Catholics, Jews, and Mormons beginning in the ’60s going up to the present day. The question is worded, “If your party nominated a generally well qualified person who happened to be a Catholic, a Jew, a Mormon, would you vote for that person?” This chart shows you the percentage who say “yes.”
Let me note a couple of things. Virtually all Americans say they would vote for a Catholic or a Jew. Now, Gallup first asked about Mormons back in 1968 because of George Romney, governor of Michigan and father of Mitt, who was running for the presidency. About 25 percent of the population at the time said they would not vote for a Mormon for President. And as you can see, in the years since that line has remained essentially flat. That’s where we’re at now. Even after all of the attention paid to Mitt Romney’s religion in 2008, we still didn’t see that line budge very much.
I wanted to dig a little deeper and understand why Americans might have a concern with Mormons. Some colleagues and I have designed these experiments that I referred to earlier. We have a whole bunch of people who are responding to a survey. Some get a description of one candidate with a bit of biographical information. Another get a description of that same candidate with some other biographical information, and we see compare how these respondents react to the information that we give them.
In one case you might read about Mitt Romney and hear about him being governor of Massachusetts the head of the winter Olympics in 2002. Other people would hear all of that, as well as the fact that he is active in the Mormon Church.
And we did the same thing with Mike Huckabee, and the fact that he’s a Southern Baptist pastor, and then just for fun we also asked about Hillary Clinton and gave some people the information that she was an active Methodist.
I should note that when we do these experiments, everything we tell respondents is truthful. We never repeat any charge that can’t be verified. Therefore, when we tell people something about Mormons we are not telling them anything that is scurrilous. We’re just sort of putting the information out there, and in this case it was simply the fact that Mitt Romney is active in, quote, the LDS or Mormon Church. We actually gave the full name of the church.
This shows you the percentage of people who say they are much less, somewhat less, somewhat more or much more likely to vote for Romney when we tell them that he is a local leader in his church, without naming the church. As you look across those red bars, you can see that they’re really small, which means that just saying that Mitt Romney was active in his church didn’t really have much effect on voters at all.
These questions were asked back in 2008 when it’s plausible to think that many voters actually were not aware of Mitt Romney’s religious background. If we were to do these now, and we actually have done some subsequent work, it looks as though most Americans or many Americans anyway are now familiar with Mitt Romney’s religious background. That was not the case when we collected these data.
The white bars reflect what happens, when we say that the church in question is actually the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. You can see that the bars jump for those who say they are either much less or somewhat less likely to vote for Romney upon hearing that information, and likewise the percentage who say they’re somewhat more or much more likely goes down. You’d expect those bars to move in opposite directions.
And you can compare that to information about Mike Huckabee, the fact that he’s a Southern Baptist pastor, or Hillary Clinton—that’s the black bar and the fact that she’s active in the Methodist Church. We wanted to test this just to make sure that it wasn’t giving somebody a specific religion that drove the reaction, that it was actually the LDS affiliation that mattered. It’s clear that it is the LDS or Mormon affiliation that matters.
You get a little bit of a reaction to the fact that Mike Huckabee is a Southern Baptist pastor, but not much.
There was a second part to this study. We asked people about their reactions to these bits of information from their biographies, but then we went on and for some of these folks we actually said not just that Mitt Romney was active in the Mormon Church, but that some people say Mormons are not Christians. Thus, some respondents got that information, and then others were told some people say that Mormons aren’t Christian but other people say that that doesn’t matter, that faith ought to be irrelevant when we’re making political choices. This was essentially John F. Kennedy’s argument in 1960 when he ran for the presidency as a Catholic.
And then with another group we said Mormons aren’t Christians, but they have the same values as people of other religions. That’s essentially the argument that Mitt Romney made in his big religion speech in 2007 as he was running for the presidency the first time.
So we wanted to know how do people respond to what you might think of as counter arguments to this concern that Mormons are not Christian. And then to make things really interesting, we wanted to understand what might be a buffer to what would for most Americans be a negative charge that Mormons are not Christian. The most plausible one we came up with was whether or not you know a Mormon, and again, this is a major theme in American Grace, the importance of the connections we make across religious lines.
What I’m going to do is compare how people respond to these various questions by looking at those who say they do not know a Mormon, those who have a close friend or family member who’s a Mormon, and then finally we’ll look at people who are in between. They know a Mormon but only in passing. They have a Mormon acquaintance, but not someone they’re close to.
First of all, do not know a Mormon. The red bars, this is those who hear that Mormons are not Christian. Well, they’re either much less or somewhat less likely to vote for Romney upon hearing that information. But then when we tell them, “some people say Mormons aren’t Christian, but other people say that faith shouldn’t be relevant in a presidential campaign”, those folks are actually persuaded. The fact that that bar goes down means that they hear the counterargument and say, “Yeah, you know, you’re right. Faith is irrelevant. I’m not going to worry about the fact that this guy is Mormon.”
And that’s also true when they hear the argument that Mormons have the same values as those of other religions. In other words, these folks are perfectly willing to react negatively when they hear that Mormons aren’t Christian or at least the charge that some people say Mormons aren’t Christian, but they can be persuaded to change their mind after they’ve heard that negative information.
This should make some sense, right? They didn’t know much about Mormons to begin with, we assume, because they don’t personally know a Mormon.
Here are those who have Mormons as a close friend or family member. First of all, we have the red bars. That’s those who are told that Mormons are not Christian or at least some people say that Mormons aren’t Christians, and you don’t get much effect. None of that is statistically significant. That makes sense. They already know a Mormon. Presumably they’ve already kind of made up their mind about this group.
When we ask would you vote for Mitt Romney upon hearing that Mormons are not Christian but that faith is irrelevant—that’s the white bar—again we see that these folks don’t really seem to have much response. They’re not really movable.
The black bar is a little deceiving. This is the group that are told Mormons aren’t Christians, but have the same values as other religions. Those black bars make it look like people are reacting really negatively to that information, and certainly some were. That effect is actually not statistically significant.
If you want to just sort of put this all together, what would I say? I’d say that those who do not know a Mormon can be reassured, I guess you might say, or at least persuaded that it’s okay to vote for a Mormon. Those who have Mormons as a close friend or family member, they’re actually not affected by the negative information in the first place. They’ve made up their minds, and for the most part it’s not negative on the question of whether they would vote for a Mormon. The interesting result is the group who have a Mormon acquaintance. These are the folks who, on the one hand, are persuaded when they hear that Mormons are not Christian, but these counterarguments make no difference whatsoever.
What appears to be happening is these are folks who are aware that there’s something different about Mormons because they know one in passing. They have a Mormon neighbor; they have a Mormon co-worker, but they haven’t developed that kind of personal relationship that enables them to get over any sort of concern that they might have about this different faith or different group. This should be a sobering message for Mormons themselves that all of that bonding has actually worked to their detriment in fostering goodwill among those of other faiths.
To conclude, let me just return to where we began, and that’s the fact that, as some have said, this is the Mormon Moment. It’s interesting to ask whether the Mormon Moment means it’s Romney’s year, which leads us to ask whether Mitt Romney will be Mormon&rsauo;s John Kennedy, the candidate who breaks through the stained glass ceiling, or will he be the Mormon’s Al Smith who was the first Catholic to run for President and didn’t shatter that stained glass ceiling, but nonetheless laid the groundwork for Kennedy 28 years later?
MR. CROMARTIE: Thank you.
MR. CROMARTIE: Well, ladies and gentlemen, just when you raise your hand I’ll keep a list, and I’ll pick Professor Berger and then Karen.
DR. PETER BERGER, Boston University: Well, again, I just have two questions. One is a classification question. How did you decide whether you called somebody Evangelical or mainline Protestant?
And you said something by simply the group to which they were affiliated. Well, I mean, this dividing line runs through denominations. For example, with a Methodist you couldn’t tell. If all you know is Methodist, they could be a flaming fundamentalist or a flaming liberal. You wouldn’t mainline type.
The other question is more complicated. I was asking myself why these surprising findings. I don’t think it works with the pro exceptions for abortion case, but the other three, I was wondering if they all have to do with what some political scientists have called “historical memory.” Mormons are pro immigration. Why? Is there a memory of what’s a cardinal event in Mormon history, that long trek to Utah?
They are pro civil unions. Is that the memory of polygamy? Mormons have a rather unusual situation. Does that carry over despite the fact that the main LDS Church no longer has polygamy?
And then the civil liberties question, security versus civil liberty, could that be, again, a memory of persecution?
So I’m just wondering whether the weight of history has some effect here.
DR. CAMPBELL: Good questions. Let me begin with the first one about how people end up in these various categories. The questions that we asked in the survey are actually much more detailed than simply are you a Methodist. So if you say, “I’m a Methodist,” well, then we ask what flavor of Methodist, and we give them a variety of options, including the opportunity to just tell us if one of the menu choices that we have for them doesn’t fit their own Methodist denomination. They can just report that, and then we went back and read all of those and hand coded them into one category versus another.
It’s messy, but I will say that we’re hardly alone in doing it this way and, if anything, we have benefitted greatly from the work of others in sort of teaching us how you sort this out.
On the question of historical memory, I do think there’s something to that idea. Although the memory is certainly selective, because remember that Mormons are a heavily Republican group, and in 1856 when the Republican Party was founded, it’s founding document actually said that its purpose was to stamp out the twin evils of barbarism, one of which was slavery, the other of which was polygamy. There was only one group in the United States that was practicing polygamy at the time—the Mormons living in the Mountain West.
So if there is historical memory, it would apply to perhaps the issues you mentioned, but then there would be great historical amnesia when it comes to the Republican Party because apparently Mormons have gotten over the 1856 document.
MR. CROMARTIE: Karen Tumulty.
KAREN TUMULTY, The Washington Post: When I was looking at sort of the political profile of Mormons, I was just really struck by how the Romney family doesn’t ever seem to have fit that profile. I mean, you know, 1968, that election was a great inflection point for the Republican Party, and George Romney was on the sort of far left end of the party. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Lenore Romney run as a pro choice candidate for the Senate even before Roe v. Wade?
So I was wondering is there some explanation of—and, again, we all know where Mitt Romney was in Massachusetts—why they would have been so far it seems like especially on the social issues outside the sort of profile, was it because they were in Michigan and not the West or what?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, I think there are different answers for George versus Mitt Romney. In 1968, I think the Mormon Church at least among its leadership was much more politically diverse than we find today. I said that one of the conditions under which Mormons can be rapidly mobilized into politics is that their leaders have to present a united front politically, and today if I’m speaking to an LDS audience, that seems like almost a truism. Well, of course, the LDS leaders are always going to stand together.
That has not always been the case. There have been in the past prominent examples of LDS leaders who quite publicly disagreed with one another politically, and that was still happening in the ’60s. Probably by the ’70s and certainly the ’80s that had largely gone away.
In the case of Mitt Romney, I would actually argue that the policy positions he has taken on the social issues are somewhat consistent actually with LDS teachings. So remember that—
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Which ones?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, in the case of abortion—or which of Romney’s positions?
On the case of abortion, remember that this is not a group that is stridently anti-abortion. They’re willing to accept abortion in a few limited circumstances, and on the case of gay marriage, this is a group that opposes gay marriage, but in many cases they’re okay with civil unions.
Those are both, at least on gay marriage, a fairly moderate position, and on abortion it’s moderate within the pro life camp. So I was talking about the strain of moderation that you find within the Mormon population. I think in general that is actually reflected in Mitt Romney’s positions if you think of him as being, you know, the moderate Republican versus the one that is far right.
MS. TUMULTY: Well, and so you’re saying, too, that there has also been a real evolution over the course of Mitt Romney’s lifetime in sort of the diversity of the church politically as well then.
DR. CAMPBELL: Yes, that’s right. It would be roughly over the period of his life. First of all, we do not hear LDS leaders speak out much on politics. It used to be more common than it is now, and to the extent that it happens, they’ll be taking a position that the church leadership as a whole has adopted and, therefore, you don’t find disagreement.
SALLY QUINN, The Washington Post: You’re saying that they’re much more conservative now?
DR. CAMPBELL: Yes, although I don’t know if conservative is quite the right word. In the 20th century Mormonism was always associated with conservatism in one sense or another, but it wasn’t always concentrated in the Republican Party.
MR. CROMARTIE: Frank Foer, you were up next.
FRANKLIN FOER, The New Republic: Just to follow up on this, so Mitt Romney is moderation, and Jon Huntsman, even though he doesn’t seem to have an outstanding chance of getting elected anything in this country right now, into the same group that these guys seem to be not just moderate on some of the social issues, but also on global warming and also on health care reform and kind of across the board they’ve positioned themselves as the more reasonable forces within.
They also both happen to come from this upper echelon. They are the one percent, economic elite.
Are there socioeconomic splits within Mormons when it comes to their political positions? Are the people who go to kind of the more elite schools and who are more part of the global economy, do they tend to veer in a different political direction than people who are further down the economic ladder?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, in my analysis of the data, of course, it’s hard for me to speak of the one percent as you’ve put it. I mean, there aren’t enough Mormons in our sample to be able to say anything systematically about those who come from billionaire families.
But if you just sort of look in general at the Mormon population, you don’t find much of a class divide. The public perception of Mormons is, well, there’s this extremely wealthy group of Mormons in the country. It turns out that on average Mormons are not any more or less wealthy than everybody else. It is just we happen to know of a few notable examples because they’re running for President.
But when it comes to attitudes on economic issues, we actually do not find much differentiation among Mormons even along class lines. This is a group that is economically quite conservative in a small C way.
MR. FOER: One other question, which is just when you look at the negative attitudes towards Mormons, did you disaggregate that based on other religious groups? So does that emanate in the same proportions across the board? Are Evangelicals more hostile than other groups or is the hostility spread equally?
DR. CAMPBELL: It is not spread equally. I actually had an op-ed piece with Bob Putnam a few weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal making this point. So I’ll just repeat the gist of that piece here. For all the attention that is given to those groups that do not like Mormons, there actually are groups in the population that are perfectly fine with Mormons, and interestingly, Jews happen to be the group that feels the best toward Mormons relative to everyone else, but mainline Protestants and Catholics are actually pretty comfortable with them as well.
So who does that leave? Well, Evangelicals or a subset of Evangelicals have a real concern with Mormons likely over theological issues, as well as the highly secular portion of the population. Those people who say they have no religion, they’re also quite negative toward Mormons. That’s where you find the real antagonism.
MR. CROMARTIE: Tim Dalrymple, you’re next, and then Phillip Rucker and I have a whole list of others.
MR. DALRYMPLE: I may have a question later, but first of all, thank you. That was really enjoyable, very interesting.
I’m trying to get my head around the homogeneity index and the question of bonding. If I’m understanding it correctly, so Evangelicals were about 25. Does that mean that 25 percent of Evangelicals say that they do not have a family member, friend or neighbor of another religion?
DR. CAMPBELL: No, actually it doesn’t. I apologize. I don’t actually have a slide that breaks out each of these groups on each of these questions, and I know an index is sort of a hard thing to describe verbally, but I’ll do my best.
We asked people these three questions, and they get a score of how religiously homogeneous or heterogeneous their social network is. We then take that score and slice it up the way you would any sort of numerical indicator, like an SAT score for example. We divide people into quartiles—the top, the next, the next and then the bottom.
And what we’re reporting in that slide is just the percentage in each of those groups that falls in the top 25 percent of religious bonding. And when I say 25 percent, that’s relative to the whole population. So any one group can be above that 25 percent level if they’re above average basically. So that’s what the white line was showing you, was essentially the average, and that’s where Evangelicals are. Mormons are above that average, as are black Protestants, as are Latino Catholics.
MR. DALRYMPLE: Now, it seems like a bit of a leap from exclusion to bonding. There’s a question of homogeneity or, you know, to what extent do you have friendships that go outside of your own religious subgroup. So I, for instance, could be very well bonded with my own religious community, and yet also have lots of friendships of people of other faiths, and I wonder would I show up then as somebody who’s not particularly bonded because I have a lot of deep relationships with people of other faiths?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, the way we asked the question about friends is we asked people to think of their five closest friends, and there’s literally a pause, and I’ve listened in as people have responded to the survey question, and it’s really quite remarkable. People really are thinking about their five closest friends. Sometimes they’ll even sort of half whisper the names. Oh, there’s Sally and there’s Mary.
And then once they’ve thought of the five closest friends, we then say, “Well, how many of those are of the same religion as you?” And they give us a number that can range from zero to five, and that’s how we measure the bonding as I’m saying among your friendships.
We asked a similar question, not exactly the same, about neighbors and extended family. We don’t ask for a number. We just say, “How many of your neighbors are of the same religion and how many in your extended family are of the same?”
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Philip Rucker.
PHILIP RUCKER, The Washington Post: I’m wondering what are the most common misperceptions or false assumptions about Mormonism in the non-Mormon public and have those changed over the last generation since Gallup began polling in 1968. So were the beliefs about Mormons in 1968 the same as they are now?
DR. CAMPBELL: That’s a good question. We don’t know that much about what people were thinking of Mormons in ’68. We have this one data point from Gallup, and I am actually not aware of any credible research that was done at the time on perceptions of Mormons. But we do know a lot about the present and what misconceptions people have about Mormons. And the fact of the matter is polygamy is a specter that haunts the LDS Church. Whenever the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has asked about Mormonism, they have these questions where they ask, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when we say Mormons” (or Jews or some other group)? For “Mormon,” it turns out that polygamy is one of the most common and, in fact, I believe it is the most common response that people give when they’re asked what comes to mind.
And of course, the LDS Church ended the practice of polygamy in 1890, but there are still these offshoot groups that HBO has put on television that practice polygamy even to this day, and there’s always a lot of confusion between the LDS Church and then these fundamentalist groups that are apostates. They are not part of the official LDS community.
I would thus say that polygamy is a misconception that persists. I think another one is the question of race in the church. There’s a lot of confusion about this. The church did have a racially exclusionary policy up until 1978 whereby blacks were not permitted to hold the LDS priesthood, which might just sound like it means that blacks couldn’t be pastors. Wasn’t that the case in lots of churches?
That’s true, except remember there’s a lay clergy within Mormonism. I mentioned that earlier, and so not being able to hold the priesthood meant that blacks couldn’t be full members of the church, or at least black men couldn’t hold any positions of leadership whatsoever. All that religious volunteering I was reporting was not entirely cut off from blacks, but largely cut off because many of those positions require you to be a part of the priesthood community.
That ended in 1978, but there are still a lot of lingering misconceptions about just what exactly the contemporary LDS view is on the role of minorities within the church.
MR. RUCKER: And do you find that these attitudes are the same across the country or are they different in a State like Nevada or Arizona or Colorado where there are more Mormons?
DR. CAMPBELL: Since people who live in the Mountain West are more likely to know a Mormon because that’s where most Mormons are concentrated, you would get presumably fewer misperceptions in those regions of the country than you would in other parts. But it’s not the geographic thing that matters. It’s the fact that they know a Mormon.
MR. CROMARTIE: Doyle, you’re up. Doyle McManus and then Sally Quinn and Andy Ferguson.
DOYLE McMANUS, Los Angeles Times: Thank you.
David, you ended with the sort of front burner question: will Mitt Romney be the Al Smith or the John Kennedy of his party and of his church? And so I wanted to ask two questions intended a little bit to prod you to connect the dots between the data and that question a little bit more.
One is Frank Foer asked about the disinclination of voters to vote for a Mormon disaggregated by church affiliations. Are those samples big enough either in Gallup or in yours to disaggregate it by party ID to tease out other hints as to not only what might happen in a hypothetical South Carolina primary where Evangelicals would have to choose between, let’s say, a Mormon and a Catholic convert, but also in general, is that feeling more concentrated among Republican voters as among independents? That’s question number one.
Question number two is I’m not entirely sure I understood the import of your argument and counterargument experiment. So let me ask the question this way. Did I understand that to mean that when voters were presented with arguments that might make them hostile to a Mormon candidate, they were swayed, but then presented with a counterargument they returned back to where they were in the first place, which is still that 25 percent drop-off in Gallup?
Or to ask that question a different way, are there any arguments that make voters in the aggregate less hostile, more welcoming toward a Mormon candidate than they were when they started?
DR. CAMPBELL: Those are two good questions. Let me start with the first one about reactions to a Mormon candidate broken out by party ID, essentially what I think you were asking. It turns out that when you look at this, whether using the Gallup question or the sort of work that I’ve done, on average Republicans are actually more likely to say that they would vote for a Mormon than are Democrats.
Now, I want to be careful how we interpret that result because Gallup asks their question as a generic Mormon candidate, and that’s the same as when you’re asking about a woman or an African American or any category. However, we know, or I think it’s fair to assume, that a hefty proportion of those people answering the question are not answering it as a generic Mormon candidate. They’re answering it as a question about Mitt Romney. Maybe a tiny percentage are thinking Jon Huntsman, but most are going to be thinking of Mitt Romney. This is similar to how, in 2008, when Gallup was asking the generic question about a woman—would you vote for a woman for President?—most people answering that were undoubtedly thinking of Hillary Clinton, even though it wasn’t phrased that way.
So given what we have, it appears that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they’d vote for a Mormon candidate, which likely means that those Republicans are thinking of Mitt Romney. That suggests, however—this is important to keep in mind—that Romney’s religion is not necessarily the death knell for him in the Republican primaries. It undoubtedly will be a major obstacle in those states where you find Evangelicals of a particular stripe, those who are concerned with the fact that according to their theology Mormons are not Christians. You’re going to find those in South Carolina. You’re going to find them among Iowa caucus goers, probably not so many among just the regular electorate in Iowa, but among those folks who show up on a snowy January night to participate in the caucuses. That’s going to be an issue.
So Romney is definitely going to face questions about his religion in the Republican primaries, but then when you move outside of the primaries or at least in a few of those states it’s not clear that it’s going to be such a huge liability that it is impossible for him to win.
Your other question was about the experiment with the arguments and the counterarguments. It actually turns out that in the aggregate, when you look at everybody all together, we can never find—we have yet to find a counterargument that can fully move people back to having no concern about a Mormon candidate. But we can improve upon Mitt Romney’s chances by giving them a counterargument. Romney does a little better when people hear the counterargument than when they don’t, but it’s still not enough to completely assuage people’s concerns.
MR. McMANUS: And is there any clear difference in the effectiveness of the two different counterarguments?
DR. CAMPBELL: No. Actually we found that to be quite surprising. So remember that the two different counterarguments that we offered were what I’ll loosely call the Kennedy argument—it doesn’t matter what my religion is because we shouldn’t ask about a candidate’s religion—versus the Romney argument, which is, oh, yeah, I’m Mormon, but I have the same values as everybody else.
We thought actually we would find differences. That’s why we asked about the two different counterarguments, but we couldn’t really find any sort of difference in how people reacted to those.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Sally Quinn.
MS. QUINN: I just wanted one clarification before I ask my question. When you referred a number of times to non-religious people, nothing in particular, nondenominational and atheists, is that all the same group?
DR. CAMPBELL: No, they’re not.
MS. QUINN: I mean, what does that mean, non-religious people or nothing in particular?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well—
MS. QUINN: Does it mean people who are nondenominational or just atheists?
DR. CAMPBELL: What it means is people who, when asked the question, what is your religion, answer, “Well, I’m nothing,” or nothing in particular or the Nones. In American Grace, this book we’ve referenced, we actually discuss the rise of “Nones,” the nothing in particulars, over the last generation or so as a major trend in American religion.
With the “nothing in particulars,” it is very important to note they are not the same thing as atheists. In fact, an overwhelming majority of people who say they have no religion also say they believe in God, also believe in an afterlife. They just don’t like label of an organized religion.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Are they churchgoers? I was sort of curious about that.
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, they—
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: I noticed that weird thing where their preacher, their leaders actually talked about politics.
DR. CAMPBELL: On average people who say they have no religion are less likely to attend religious services than those who say they do have a religion, but it’s not zero, which means that there are a number of people out there in America who are attending religious services but don’t consider themselves affiliated with that religion. In many cases they’re probably hopping from one church to another over the course of a month or year, but they don’t consider themselves affiliated with any one of them.
And, again, that makes them a very different group than a hard core atheist. There obviously are atheists in America, but they’re a much smaller fraction of the population than these “nothing in particulars.”
You also asked about the nondenominational folks. If you answer the question about your religious background and report that you attended church, but it’s nondenominational, we then asked a few more questions to try to differentiate between the ecumenical and mainline Protestant kind of nondenominational versus the Evangelical mega-church kind of nondenominational, and sort people accordingly.
MS. QUINN: Because there are so many people who belong to these nondenominational churches who really if you asked them they would have to say nothing in particular because the churches have no denomination.
DR. CAMPBELL: Right. Well, that’s why, just to be clear, when we’re asking those questions, we’re actually referencing the congregation that they attend or feel affiliated with, and again, you get a non-negligible fraction of people who do attend a nondenominational church, but that’s, of course, different than saying they don’t have a religion.
MS. QUINN: Okay, but my main question is this. You’re talking about why people don’t like Mormons, but we didn’t get into the whole cult thing, which I think is sort of the issue here, and I thought it was interesting that the two groups that didn’t like Mormons most were Evangelicals and Jews—no, Evangelicals and secular.
DR. CAMPBELL: Yeah, yeah.
MS. QUINN: Evangelical and secular.
DR. CAMPBELL: The Jews like Mormons. Jews and Mormons, they’re like this.
MS. QUINN: But I have an atheist friend who said to me the other day, “All Mormons are crazy. They’re complete nut cases.” You know, this is a very well known, very smart columnist, journalist who everybody knows in this room.
But he just said it out like that, and you know, the Mormons are thought to be—we were talking about this last night with Mike Otterson. I was saying, you know, a lot of people think that Mormons are crazy, and then they’re also the object of ridicule, you know, Joseph Smith and the tablets and the Angel Moroni and you know.
And you also mentioned the Broadway play, The Book of Mormon, which I have seen, and you know, it’s a very sweet play, but it ridicules Mormons. You wouldn’t see that I don’t think about Muslims or Jews or Catholics on Broadway. I may be wrong. But clearly they are seen as an object of ridicule, and that there’s this cult thing, secrecy, and they’re weird.
And could you address that? Because I think that, you know, all of the issues that you gave about, well, the abortion and all those, those are sort of mainstream issues that affect every religion, but what we’re talking about is the real bottom line here, which is people think they’re crazy or they’re weird or they’re cultists.
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, I think that the reaction to the statement that Mormons are not Christians actually taps into at least some of what you are describing. In another experiment that I didn’t report here we also said to our subjects some people say that Mormons have strange beliefs that are different than those of Protestants and Catholics. Again, this is a true statement, and the results that we get for responses to that question are very similar to what you saw here about the charge that Mormons are not Christians.
It’s definitely true that there are some, not a majority, but some in the American population who have unease with I guess you’d say the specifics of Mormonism. But I would counter that it’s the personal connections that people make with Mormons that would cause them either to not view those issues with concern or in some cases maybe even take what might have been a matter of concern and instead view it in a positive light.
The examples I would give—and this is not going to come as anything revelatory to this audience—but if I were to describe the religious beliefs or practices of almost any religion without any context, they would all sound strange. If I were to tell you that I work for a university that is funded by a group who eat a wafer once a week that they believe turns into the flesh of their Messiah, you would think that’s a very strange thing. I don’t think that is stranger than any of the things that are associated with Mormonism. They’re just a little older, all right, and they’ve been around a lot more. Even if you’re not Catholic, you’ve learned a little bit about Catholicism or maybe you have a Catholic friend or you have a Catholic acquaintance.
And that’s why I think that while in the short run all of this discussion about Mormonism is going to be painful for a lot of Mormons, many of the things that they hold sacred are, as you’ve mentioned, ridiculed. That’s happened already. It will happen again.
But I’m actually optimistic enough to think that in the medium run and certainly in the long run Mormons will be better off for this discussion; that if Mormons are going to be part of the mainstream, it means that they need to play in the big leagues, and playing in the big leagues means that sometimes people take shots at you.
The country will also be better off because the more we surface these issues about Mormonism and have a national conversation about them, the less stigma that will be associated with them. This is exactly the story of American Catholicism.
I would encourage anyone in this room who has never done this to go online and find the speech that John Kennedy gave in 1960 to the Houston Ministerial Association. Many of you have undoubtedly seen that speech or you’ve read it. On americanrhetoric.com, you can watch the speech and then watch the Q&A session after the speech. That doesn’t get as much attention.
I show that Q&A session to my classes at Notre Dame because it’s fascinating to hear what those pastors, most of whom would have been Baptists, were asking John F. Kennedy in 1960. They were asking him about precisely the kinds of things that are being said now about Mormons. That was only in 1960, and it just sort of reminds us that people’s attitudes can change, although not necessarily overnight. I would argue that these personal connections are a very important part of that changing attitude.
MS. QUINN: Mike, can I just follow up?
MR. CROMARTIE: Yes, and then, Andy, you’re next.
MS. QUINN: Is the 25 percent which hasn’t changed over the years, people who are, you know, mostly Evangelical but say they won’t ever vote for a Mormon, is that the same crowd of 25 percent of the Evangelicals who think that Obama is a Muslim?
DR. CAMPBELL: That’s a good question. I myself have never done a cross-tabulation with one group versus the other. I’m only able to report on what Gallup puts on their Website, and I’ve never asked those two questions in the same survey. So I can’t tell you whether it’s the same people answering that.
I suspect that it may very well be, however. That seems very likely to me.
MR. CROMARTIE: Andy Ferguson, you’re next.
ANDREW FERGUSON, The Weekly Standard: Doyle actually asked my question, but I came up with another one.
You had mentioned how the bonding both hurts and helps Mormons. It keeps them cohesive, but on the other hand, people have less interaction with them and misunderstand them. I suppose there isn’t, but is there any way to judge over time whether those bonds are loosening and whether there’s more integration into the larger society, the way we saw with Catholics, say?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, we do have hints that this is happening. The story of the Mormon population in America has been of diffusion across the country. Jan Shipps, the historian, has written about this, how in the post war era—so over the last 50 years or so—you saw Mormons move from being almost entirely concentrated in the Mountain West to now being scattered all around the country. Now, obviously there are some parts of the country where you find more Mormons than others. Washington, D.C., happens to be an area where you’ll find a fairly high concentration. That’s also true in Boston. It’s also true in a few other parts of the country.
So certainly the potential for greater bridging is out there because Mormons have diffused, but as I was saying in response to Paul Edwards’ earlier question, even with that geographic diffusion which has helped a little bit to foster more interfaith ties between Mormons and others, there are still many constraints within the faith itself, the very way that it’s organized that actually holds Mormons back from making more connections.
So the potential is there, but I would say based on the data that I’ve seen that it hasn’t been fully realized because the church asks a lot of its members. They do a lot of things with other members, volunteering within the walls of the church. Plus, and this goes back to the distinctiveness, most Mormons are just more comfortable to be around other Mormons. There’s a language that they speak. There are things that they do that they don’t have to keep explaining to their neighbors, and this is the hurdle that individual Mormons have to get over that, frankly, other groups have gotten over. Catholics got over this. You just have to be able to put yourself out there and let people see the way you live your life.
MR. FERGUSON: But they became more integrated by becoming less Catholic, right?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, that is certainly a risk. I recently gave a lecture to an audience that was almost entirely LDS in which I was making the point that Mormons themselves need to go out and build more bridges. The most provocative question posed was, “doesn’t that mean that we would lose our distinctiveness. Isn’t that a risk? Isn’t that the story of American Catholicism and, you might argue, American Judaism as well?”
And that is a risk. I don’t, however, think that it necessarily has to be the case, and I would also say that Mormons are distinctive enough that they’re nowhere near losing that distinctiveness if they make a few more friends.
So two or three generations from now maybe we need to have that conversation. I don’t think we need to now.
MR. CROMARTIE: Shelby Coffey.
MR. COFFEY: Yes. One question with three parts on the political side of Mormonism. I would be interested if you could give some of the reasons why the leadership became more conservative over the ’70s and ’80s. Was it the particular people there? Was it—I was thinking as you were discussing it it has an interesting parallel in the Vatican as well.
Secondly, as the rough and tumble of the political fray has come in, were there any particular after effects of the Proposition 8 back and forth which included as I understand it from politically active Mormon friends in Washington, some tracking or stalking or perceived stalking of Mormons who had been active in that?
And then finally, you may have seen it, the outbursts from the usually fairly calm political commentator Lawrence O’Donnell about—
—Mormonism. Admittedly, cable news does specialize in flame throwing and it has its own rewards mostly in ratings, but do you recall his outburst based on Big Love and his work on that about what he thought the Mormon religion had at its back in terms of policy, which he thought did not do much good for Mr. Romney?
Are you familiar with that particular?
DR. CAMPBELL: I am. Unless there’s been a more recent one, this is—
MR. COFFEY: No.
DR. CAMPBELL:—from a couple of weeks ago?
MR. COFFEY: No, but I think you could probably stay tuned if Mr. Romney grabs the nomination.
DR. CAMPBELL: All right. A couple of questions there. First of all, on why the LDS leadership became more conservative. I don’t know if I would say that the leadership themselves changed, at least in their religiously grounded political attitudes. What changed was American politics—with the injection of social issues, first abortion, then same sex marriage, and then all of the issues that are bundled together, including gender roles.
I think it sort of seemed natural that this group that took fairly conservative positions on those issues would end up associated with the Republican Party.
My point about the political diversity among LDS leaders was not to suggest that all LDS leaders today are Republican. In fact, I have no idea about the partisanship of our current crop of leaders in the LDS Church, but if I were giving this talk in the 1960s or ’50s and going back even further, I probably could have told you something about the politics of religious leaders in the LDS Church. The general leaders were often outspoken, most famously Ezra Taft Benson, who later became president of the church itself. While he was an apostle of the LDS Church, one of the highest levels of leadership, he served in the Eisenhower administration as Secretary of Agriculture. He was known as a very conservative member of Eisenhower’s cabinet. That was his public persona.
But there were others also in the high levels of leadership who were known as Democrats, and that was public. That has ended. Now you don’t have any church leaders speaking out on that sort of thing. Instead they’re going to restrict themselves to just the religious stuff, but that religious stuff often has a political resonance because of our political landscape and environment.
Speak out on the traditional family, you’re going to get associated with one party versus another.
On the after effects of Proposition 8, I think it is fair to say that following the Proposition 8 campaign, Mormons in California and the rest of the country felt a heightening of the besieged mentality. They felt that they were being singled out and targeted for what they saw as just simply the expression of their views in legitimate democratic discourse.
It’s certainly my own experience in talking with other members of the church that in the wake of Proposition 8 there was a feeling that they were being picked on in a way that other groups were not. Frankly, that probably comes not only from the high profile of the church’s involvement on that issue, but also because this is a cohesive group. You can sort of identify who they are.
And on Lawrence O’Donnell, I’m not sure I have anything more to say about Lawrence O’Donnell than what he has said himself, except to note that I’m willing to wager that you’re going to hear similar sorts of things again during the 2012 election cycle just as we did in 2008. Partly this is because this story is so juicy that it’s hard for folks like yourselves, the media, to not report on it, and so you’re going to have people who know they can say inflammatory things and get their—
MR. COFFEY: I’m sorry. I wasn’t asking you in particular to respond. I just wondered if there has developed a countervailing narrative to that kind of political sledgehammer.
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, I will say this—
MS. QUINN: Excuse me. I missed the Lawrence O’Donnell thing. Can you explain what happened?
DR. CAMPBELL: Do you want to go ahead Shelby?
MR. CROMARTIE: Shelby has memorized it.
MR. COFFEY: It was an unusual commentary during Romney’s first run in which Lawrence O’Donnell said, similar to the things you were discussing, that Mormonism did terrible things, discriminated against women. It has discriminated against blacks. It’s rigid and I can’t remember all the other adjectives, and it was delivered with a passion. I happened to see it live, and it was almost as interesting as Governor Perry’s 53 seconds which I saw live, too. Good ol’ television.
And it bespoke something that I think you will hear more of if Romney, in fact, takes the nomination, and it is the political buttressing or buffeting, rather, of the religion, and not similar to things I’ve seen about other religions in the political framework.
DR. CAMPBELL: My sense is that in the latest dust-up we had about Romney’s religion from a few weeks ago now when Robert Jeffers said that Mormonism is a cult at the Value Voters Summit, my sense was that there actually were more folks either in the media itself or sort of, you know, in the chattering classes that rose to the defense of Romney or rose to the defense of Mormonism in a way that we did not see in 2008.
Now, I’ve not done a systematic analysis of this. So maybe I’m wrong, but that’s certainly my sense, and I’m seeing people nodding their heads as I say that so maybe that’s the sense elsewhere. It sure seems from my perspective in reading this stuff that there were more people willing to stand up and say, “You know, that’s outside what’s reasonable.”
MR. CROMARTIE: Quickly on this point Michael Gerson and then, Ard, you’re up next.
MICHAEL GERSON, The Washington Post: Yes, that was exactly my impression, that each time on the right this has come up there’s been a kind of stronger reaction, and I would predict that when the criticism starts coming from the left that you’re going to have this solidarity of the besieged. I think a lot of Evangelicals have felt that way when Catholics are discriminated against. I mean, you see that kind of as a sub-current, when they are traditional rivals in American religious history.
And I think, you know, once this becomes the left against Romney, you’re not going to see much criticism from the right under those circumstances. But that’s one of the great contributions of democracy to religious pluralism, you know. It makes strange bedfellow allies who all of a sudden are left to defend one another on issues, you know, when they have very little theologically in common.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Ard Louis.
DR. ARD LOUIS, University of Oxford: So I have a few questions. One you may have mentioned, but I missed it. So when you looked at negative views, you unpacked that Evangelicals were more likely to have and Atheists are more likely to have negative views of Mormons. I’m just curious, when you looked at Mormons as negative views of other religions so that that came out differently from the national statistics and also correlated with high and low bonding scores.
The second question I have is really about gender. I was interested to see that a high percentage of Mormons think that women should not have salaried jobs outside of the home, and I’m wondering whether that is—how does that correlate with volunteering activity? You expect those people have more time for things like PTAs, and this is not part of your study but something you may know about. So what is the Mormon Church’s feelings about women in other countries where women have to work for economic necessity, which is true in Latin America, Asia, and many African countries?
And my next question is on Mormon laity. What’s the Mormon—what’ s the kind of views of the Mormon laity on the creation/evolution debate? How do they come down on things like global warming?
And linked to that is your colleague Mark Noll in this famous book he wrote on The Scandal of Evangelical Mind. I’m just curious for you personally whether that resonates with you at all. Is there a scandal of the Mormon mind, or not? I have no idea.
And also, a subset of that is how do academics in your experience treat Mormon academics. Do you find—maybe you don’t want to speak on that publicly, but do you think that the academic world as a whole views someone like yourself with opening more of an academic negatively?
And then the last thing, which is a little small thing—
—is I was just curious, is whether the Nones—whether you’re familiar with in Holland we have the “ietsisten,” which is the—
DR. CAMPBELL: Have a what again?
DR. LOUIS: The “something-ists” would be the translation, which are people that believe that there’s something out there, and it’s now about 40 percent of the population refers to themselves as “ietsista” in surveys.
And I wonder whether that’s not very close to the Nones. I mean, it’s a difference whether theirs become part of the general culture, the word ietsista, not-somethingists or Noneists, I guess. That they become part of the culture. I was just curious whether you’ve looked at that at all or whether those people have gotten back to you on the Nones and the ietsista.
DR. CAMPBELL: I’m still not sure I got the question.
DR. LOUIS: Ietsista is a Dutch word, of course. It means the somethingist.
MR. CROMARTIE: There’s something out there?
DR. LOUIS: If you haven’t heard the word, then my question is irrelevant. I thought you might.
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, I always like to learn new words though. This is a term used in Europe?
DR. LOUIS: Yeah. The relevance, it’s part of the-so it’s—that’s my translation of it.
DR. CAMPBELL: So a somethingist would be somebody who believes there’s something out there, but they don’t affiliate with an organized religion.
DR. LOUIS: Yeah.
DR. CAMPBELL: Yeah, that would be the Nones in America or sometimes they’re called the spiritual but not religious folks. That’s a common expression here.
Okay. I hope I got all of those. Here we go.
MR. CROMARTIE: Well, no, that’s a new word in the history of this program. We’ve got a new word to add to it.
MS. QUINN: Well, the next panel you’re going to have to get a somethingist to come and lead us.
MR. CROMARTIE: We found a somethingist from South Beach to respond to Professor Berger.
DR. CAMPBELL: So the first question you asked was about negativity, and I think it was how Mormons view other groups; is that right?
DR. LOUIS: Yeah, yeah.
DR. CAMPBELL: We actually have a section of American Grace where we got into more detail about this, but I’ll just sort of summarize it this way: Mormons love everyone else, and everyone else is not so wild about Mormons. It’s true.
It turns out that Mormons like people who have no religion—the Nones—more than the Nones like themselves, just as an example.
MS. QUINN: That’s why they’re weird.
DR. CAMPBELL: But that statement is actually also true for Evangelicals who also like everyone else, and that’s interesting. What is it about Mormons and Evangelicals that might lead them to be warm toward others?
Well, one is that these are highly religious groups and just being more religious actually makes you more gregarious apparently, or more willing to be positive towards others. It’s also interesting to note that in a big study that the Pew Forum did a year ago on religious knowledge, Mormons actually scored the highest on what they knew about other religions. This is probably tied to the missionary work that they do, but knowing something about another religion probably also helps you appreciate it. So that’s what I’d say with that.
On gender, there were a couple of different questions there. One is about volunteering activity I guess it would be among Mormon women that you’re asking. That rate is going to be very high. Women in general volunteer more than men. Women are more religious than men. Being more religious makes you more likely to volunteer. So everything weighs in favor of religious women in general being highly engaged in volunteering, and that’s just amped up even more for Mormons because they’re just even more likely to volunteer and more likely to be religious. That feeds together to lead to a lot of involvement both in their church and in their community.
DR. LOUIS: The main thing I’m interested in is whether that correlated to the fact that they are less likely to take salaried jobs.
DR. CAMPBELL: Not necessarily. It’s more how religious you are. So the world would be a simpler place to understand if it were the case that it was a zero sum relationship. If you don’t have a job, you’re more likely to volunteer and vice versa, but that turns out not to be the case. The women who work are actually just as likely to volunteer as women who don’t. That’s another literature that I could talk about, but that’s been established.
And then you asked about the LDS Church and its attitudes towards women working in other countries. Just to be clear, what I showed you was data on how the Mormon rank and file feel about gender roles. That is a little different than what the official policy or teaching might be of the LDS Church. While the church itself continues to hold to a traditionalist view of the family, having famously opposed the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, that doesn’t actually mean that the church has any official prohibition on women working outside of the home.
And in recent years, I’d say over the last ten to 15 years, you’ve actually seen a real softening of the language that’s used from LDS Church leaders about women working outside the home simply because increasingly Mormon women are working outside of the home. At the individual level Mormons are probably working this out for themselves, trying to think through the appropriate role for mothers working and such. But officially from the church it’s perfectly fine for women to work outside of the home. Whether they choose to do so is a different matter, whether they’re in the United States or elsewhere.
On the question of creation versus evolution among Mormon laity, I actually can report on this. A little bit to my surprise actually, Mormons are about as likely as Evangelicals to endorse creationism over the theory of evolution. The reason why that’s a bit of a surprise is, theologically, there’s no reason why Mormons would have to endorse creationism. Their own theology actually doesn’t preclude the possibility that life was created through an evolutionary process. I mean, God was in control of it, but there’s nothing in Mormon teaching that would say it had to have happened in six literal days, but nonetheless, you do find Mormons being more likely to endorse creationism over evolution.
You asked about the fact that I’m a Mormon academic and whether I ever face any hostility about that. I can honestly say that in my career I have only once encountered any sort of overt hostility in a conversation over the fact that I was Mormon and it was many years ago when I was in grad school. It was actually a fairly well known sociologist of religion who I will not name here, although I’m very tempted to do so, who over dinner one night really wanted—
MR. CROMARTIE: Off the record maybe?
DR. CAMPBELL:—really wanted to rake me over the coals and hold me personally accountable for everything that he thought the Mormon Church had done wrong over its history. But that’s just one out of many, many, many interactions.
In my experience at least among political scientists, and this is probably true of social scientists in general, there’s an acceptance as long as you stick to the facts and the evidence. I have never really encountered any real concern.
Now, what they say about me behind my back I don’t know, but certainly to my face, I’ve not had any real concern. I actually think that a lot of scholars who are themselves religious, at least in the social sciences, have the attitude that they’re picked on in a way that I personally have not ever really experienced, but again, maybe behind my back all sorts of nasty things are being said.
I think we got them all.
MR. CROMARTIE: Well, we’ve heard nothing bad about you behind your back either.
Peter David is next and then David Mark and then Paul Edwards.
PETER DAVID, The Economist: I loved the talk, but I think you left me sort of dangling because you put out this tantalizing idea about the dry kindling, and you said that there was a sort of latent potential for political mobilization among Mormons, although you added the caveat that this required, amongst other things, the LDS leadership to give its assent to some sort of political mobilization, and they were reticent about doing that very often.
But were you meaning to imply that, you know, we can expect some sort of conflagration? You know, what would it take to set fire to the dry kindling and what are the limits to the sort of political activity and mobilization you might expect to see from Mormons?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, if it were to be directed from church leaders themselves, so that’s quite apart from individual Mormons deciding that they want to rally on behalf of Mitt Romney or some other candidate. That will would go on, but I can assure you that would not come with the imprimatur of the LDS leadership.
But when the LDS leadership does decide to get involved, the language that they always use is that they only take positions on moral issues, not political issues, but I think we can all appreciate that the line is often blurry between those, but nonetheless, that is the officially stated policy.
Based on the historical record, I would say that there are a few issues, a handful of issues that the church seems to care about most. Currently that would be the definition of the family, although even there the church is somewhat selective where it chooses to get involved. I don’t claim to know exactly why they choose to get involved in some campaigns and not others, but I suspect that it has something to do with where they think they might actually make a difference.
Historically though, by which I mean over the last 30 or 40 years, another issue that doesn’t get nearly as much attention and where the church has actually been quite consistent and vocal, has been gambling. The church has opposed legalized gambling in many different forums both in Utah and in other states as well, and if you go way back to the 1960s, the church was also involved in alcohol policy in the State of Utah in a rather famous ballot initiative in the State of Utah over whether Utahans would be able to buy liquor by the drink.
That’s a pretty small set of issues. There might be others that would come down the pike, but I wouldn’t expect it to be, you know, a huge number of issues, and—
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Excuse me. Hasn’t the church also gotten involved in separation of church and state cases?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, there are actions that the church might take in terms of filing briefs for Supreme Court cases, but that’s different than the sort of individual level mobilization that I’m describing. I’m not aware of a case where individual Mormons have been asked to weigh in on whether the Boy Scouts should be able to prohibit homosexuals from being leaders and those sorts of questions.
MR. CROMARTIE: On this point, Frank?
MR. FOER: Yeah, on this point, and you can cancel my other request.
MR. CROMARTIE: Yes.
MR. FOER: So you mentioned that there are very few sermons that are actually about politics, and here you’re saying that there’s this reluctance from the church to get too deeply involved in politics. Could you just talk about the roots and contours?
Is there an anti-politics? Is there a sense that politics is like a dirty realm or is there any hostility to the practice of politics per se?
DR. CAMPBELL: No. To be clear, as I showed you, Mormons are actually as likely to be involved in politics as everyone else, and Mormons themselves are encouraged to be involved in the political process. There’s actually a letter read every election year over every pulpit in every congregation that comes from the First Presidency. (That is, the President of the Church and his two counselors. Think of them as being like vice presidents). This is like a papal encyclical. It’s that sort of thing. It’s read over every pulpit, and it says you are all encouraged to get involved in the political process, but the church will take no political stands.
So I wouldn’t say that Mormons think of politics as being a dirty realm, but LDS leaders are very careful to protect the Church as an institution. The church leaders see a great risk in the Church, with a capital C, being viewed as political in any way, shape or form, and that probably does have historical roots.
Earlier we were talking about historical memory. If you go way back to the very founding of the State of Utah, there was great concern that the LDS Church had too much sway in the politics of the state, and I think that has lingered as a concern among contemporary leaders. So they don’t want to be seen as—
UNKNOWN SPEAKER:—and the Army was sent to repress it, right? I mean—
DR. CAMPBELL: What’s that?
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: An Army was sent to repress it.
DR. CAMPBELL: That’s right. That’s right.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: So a pretty brutal history.
DR. CAMPBELL: And then basically one of the conditions of Utah becoming a state was that the political system in the state, which at the time was divided between a Mormon party and a non-Mormon party, would end and instead people in the State of Utah would be Democrats and Republicans the way everybody else in the country was.
That would be my take on it. There’s not any reluctance for church leaders to encourage individual Mormons to be involved in politics, but they’re very, very careful about how the church itself is perceived because they’re in the business of trying to win souls to the Mormon Church, and they don’t necessarily see politics as a good way to accomplish that.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. We have David Mark up next, and then we’ll go with Allison and then to Paul. So David Mark from Politico.
DAVID MARK, Politico: What might be referred to as kind of professional secularists—like Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens—seem to give the LDS Church a particularly hard time. Maybe they go after the Catholic Church with some comparable level of furor, but it’s certainly among their top targets.
Is there a sense that this has hurt and kind of sunk in the popular culture, or has it in a sense kind of created a certain sympathy, a backlash, creating more interest in finding out about the church?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, I don’t know actually what the real answer is. My suspicion would be that, again, in the short run these sorts of attacks are undoubtedly painful for Mormons themselves, but I’m not actually convinced that they do that much damage in the bigger picture of how Mormons are perceived by everyone else.
That’s true for episodes of South Park that highlight the church, the musical on Broadway or the screeds levelled by Bill Maher or Christopher Hitchens or anyone else. And the reason that I say that is it establishes Mormons as a group worth taking seriously. Nobody would poke fun at Mormons if they didn’t matter, My own personal opinion is the more this sort of thing happens and sort of Mormons are out there, the more the Mormons are going to be seen as part of the mainstream. And if they’re in the mainstream, it means you can poke fun at them.
Now, sometimes that is going to step over some lines, but in other cases, you know, maybe Mormons should lighten up a little bit and be willing to roll with it.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Allison Pond and then Paul Edwards.
ALLISON POND, Deseret News: I’ve got a couple parts to this question as well. I want to go back to what you were saying about self-identification. One of the things you talk about in American Grace is how, you know, among Catholics, for example, who become less active will still self-identify as Catholics, although Protestants, if they become less active, may be more likely to then say, “Oh, I’m nothing in particular.”
And it seems to me that Mormons are more like the Protestants in that regard, and you know, if they are less active, that they’re more likely to not self-identify. And so I’m wondering what you think about polling on Mormons, and as throughout the election more polling of Mormons comes out, to what extent should it be taken with a grain of salt, or is it actually more instructive to look at this data based on Mormons who are the most active and the most involved?
And I’m also curious about your data on Mormons and if you see differences between Mormons inside versus outside of Utah. The Pew Forum polling has some of that. I’m wondering if that’s reflected in yours as well, and what do you make of that? Are there implications for this idea of dry kindling?
I know one of the things that Pew found is that outside of Utah Mormons may be somewhat less politically conservative, for example.
And then the second part of my question has to do with the wealth gap and the trend of inequality that is really a lot in the news right now, but that you also touch on in American Grace as one of the trends that has actually gone along with some religious trends that have been happening in America, too. And as, you know, religion has sort of transitioned from pushing for more equality to aligning more with conservative causes, where are Mormons in all of this in terms of your data? And how has it affected Mormonism?
Maybe talk about Mormon attitudes on poverty and government and, you know, the Mormon welfare system which was quite progressive at the time it was created, but sort of what are LDS views on care for the poor as they relate to the current discussion that the country is having right now.
DR. CAMPBELL: Sure. The first question was about Mormons identifying themselves as Mormons and the fact that we’re probably missing some people who maybe in the past have been Mormon or members of the LDS Church but do not currently think of themselves that way.
I actually think that for the purposes of analysis, that makes for a cleaner analysis, that we’re really getting at people who go around thinking of themselves as Mormons. Now, it doesn’t mean that all of them are necessarily active in the faith. There’s a fair portion of the Mormon population who are perfectly willing to identify as Mormon but are not necessarily heavily involved. It’s just that it seems that they’re more likely to be heavily involved than are nominal members of other faiths.
We also know that retention rates among Mormons, by which we mean people who were raised LDS, are higher than among other groups, but not fantastically higher. So it might be around 60 percent, whereas among Evangelicals it might be around 50 percent, and among Catholics it might be around 40 percent. Bigger, but we’re still seeing a fair amount of attrition from the faith.
You also asked about Mormons inside and outside of Utah. Again, it’s hard for me to make those sorts of distinctions. You noted that Pew found that Mormons outside of Utah are less likely to be politically conservative. It’s really hard to know whether that isn’t just simply the fact that anybody outside of Utah is more likely to be politically conservative.
And I don’t say that facetiously. I mean, seriously, that may not actually, quite honestly, have anything to do with Mormonism per se. It might have a lot more to do with the fact that people’s political attitudes are affected by lots of different things in their context, one of which might be religion, but others might be, you know, the particular political leaders that are running in your state, et cetera, et cetera.
So I guess what I’ll say is wait about a year from now when we’ll have our book done and be able to tell you more about Mormons inside Utah and outside of Utah. I should say that within Mormonism as a culture, this is a major topic of discussion. There’s even a vocabulary for it. Mormons themselves regularly speak of “Utah Mormons.” Where I live in Indiana, we have people in our local congregation who are the Utah Mormons, and everyone knows exactly what we mean by that, I guess.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: What is it?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well—
—let me put it this way. In my congregation in the South Bend area, we quite often have visitors who will come and attend church because they’re passing through. We happen to be close to I-80 and lots of people stop right around where we are as they’re traveling across the country. It is not uncommon for those folks, many of whom come from Utah, to stand up and tell us what we’re doing wrong, speaking from their experience as a Utah Mormon.
And perhaps that anecdote more than anything else summarizes what most Mormons think of Utah Mormons.
UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Wow, that sounds great.
MS. QUINN: But if Mormons love everybody, doesn’t that piss some people off?
DR. CAMPBELL: That—
MS. QUINN: No, I mean, you know, if somebody is telling you you’re doing something wrong.
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, they’re a very polite people. So, you know, these things are sort of taken with “oh, well, that’s very nice. I’m glad you pointed that out.”
MR. CROMARTIE: “Come again.”
DR. CAMPBELL: That’s right. We hope to see you again.
MR. CROMARTIE: Here’s where we are on the list. Paul Edwards and Carl Cannon, Fred Barnes and Tim Dalrymple and Michael Flaherty and Sally.
DR. CAMPBELL: Let me just quickly answer Allison’s last question about—
MR. CROMARTIE: Yes, please. Okay.
DR. CAMPBELL:—income inequality in Mormons. Mormons as a group, again, are quite economically conservative. So when it comes to questions of redistribution of wealth and such, they line up as you would expect very conservative Republicans to do. We do not see a great concern for income inequality among the Mormon population, at least not as of yet. Maybe that would change if we saw a different rhetoric coming from the pulpit, but that’s the status quo.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Paul Edwards.
MR. EDWARDS: Just actually, David, you’ve answered some of this in response to Allison. I just think some of what’s been presented is a pretty monolithic view of Mormonism, and you know, I think it’s fair to note that Harry Reid, of course, is a Latter Day Saint, and Allison’s question about inside/outside of Utah I think is an important one to—and it sounds like that information is going to be forthcoming at some point with your survey.
I think there are just some other things to maybe ask you about in terms of education. I mean, do we see differences in political attitudes among Mormons that are educated? I happen to know that there was a study done many years ago showing that among different religions there was actually a very positive correlation between education and activity among Mormons, which is somewhat different than most other religious traditions, where usually the increase in education, you see a decline in religiosity, whereas graduate and postgraduate degrees indicate a much more positive level of activity among Mormons.
But does that reflect in any way with political attitudes among Mormons that way? We found a little bit of this. I don’t have any hard statistical evidence on this, but when we did some polling of the Deseret News on attitudes toward immigration, interestingly enough, what we found was that if you looked at both education and activity in the Mormon Church in the State of Utah, you found a much more moderate view to the immigration question, and if people reported less activity, although self-identified as Mormon, there was a much stronger enforcement attitude towards immigration.
So we saw some cleavages there.
DR. CAMPBELL: That would be consistent with my read of the data. Again, it’s hard for me to say much about subgroups within the Mormon population, but to the extent we do see anything, it does appear that education, on the one hand, does correlate—I’ll use that word carefully—with greater activity in the LDS Church, but also more moderation on many of the issues that we’re highlighting. On the immigration question that could very well be because if you served a full-time mission for the LDS Church, chances are you’re going to be more active in the faith later on in life. We know there’s a correlation there, and that would fit my hypothesis that the attitudes on immigration are driven at least in part by the missionary experience or, if not you personally having served a mission in a Latin American country, knowing somebody who did and being exposed to that culture.
MR. CROMARTIE: Carl Cannon.
CARL CANNON, RealClearPolitics.com: Dave, when you showed the slide on the—I actually have two questions, Mike. A real quick first one—
MR. CROMARTIE: Well, we sometimes have eight questions. So, two works.
MR. CANNON: Okay, right. When you showed the slide of attitudes by Mormons on immigration, I was correlating to Catholics, but I thought it might be better to have Latino Catholics, and then I thought, well, that’s asking a lot, but in a later slide you did break it out for Latino Catholics. Do you have that breakdown?
DR. CAMPBELL: I don’t have it with me, but over lunch I can look it up.
MR. CANNON: That would be helpful.
DR. CAMPBELL: I’m quite confident that Latino Catholics are going to be much more open to immigration than Anglo Catholics.
MR. CANNON: Right, yeah. And the second thing I wanted to ask you is do you happen to know, the musical was mentioned, but that musical came out of a show that was in 2003, a South Park episode. It ridiculed Joseph Smith, but it ridiculed anti-Mormon bigotry even more. It sort of stuck up for Mormons as a people.
Do you know the reaction to that show within the church? That’s a little out of your area, but I just thought—
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, from what I have read, you know, on the blogs and such when people respond to that particular episode, and the way the episode ends is after all of this ridicule—
MR. CANNON: You don’t have to say the exact last quote if you don’t want to.
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, I’ll see if I can get it close. After all the ridicule that this one Mormon kid in South Park receives, he says to one of his buddies, “You know, I don’t really care what people say and I don’t really know about all this history stuff. All I know is that my religion teaches me to love my family and be a good person,” or something along those lines.
MR. CANNON: That’s very close.
DR. CAMPBELL: And that’s where the episode ends.
I take that as a positive statement, that in the end that story was, well, Mormons might believe a bunch of weird stuff, but they’re good people.
MR. CANNON: Right.
DR. CAMPBELL: And that’s kind of what I think Mormons themselves would want the world to recognize, that, yes, we’re distinctive. We believe different things. We aren’t mainline Protestants. We don’t believe the same things. That’s what makes us different and distinctive. But we believe that those things lead us to do good things.
MR. CANNON: That’s exactly what the kid said. His name is Gary. He said, “I don’t know if Joseph Smith made it all up. All I know is I love my family and I owe that to the Book of Mormon.”
But what was the reaction of the elders? Because that’s a two-edged sword.
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, I can’t speak for church leaders. I have no idea what their reaction is. Among sort of rank and file Mormons, my experience is that some people are concerned whenever there’s anything that they perceive as even remotely negative in the press about the church. That’s probably no different than other groups as well, and those folks are going to be hostile to that. There was a PBS documentary on Mormons a few years ago that I thought was pretty even handed. I’ve known others who said, “Oh, it was terrible because they actually highlighted some people who had criticisms of the church.”
One crowd is not going to like it at all, but there’s another that I would like to think of as maybe a little more media savvy and maybe a little more likely to have made bridges to people of other faiths who recognize that this is what it means to be part of the mainstream. You’re going to have your faith out there, and hopefully in the end the balance is more positive than negative.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Good. Fred Barnes is up next, and then after Fred Tim Dalrymple and Michael Flaherty.
FRED BARNES, The Weekly Standard: David, how do Mormons feel about lapsed Mormons? Since they like everybody, do they like lapsed Mormons just as well?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, we didn’t ask that specifically, but just speaking from my own experience, yes. In fact, there’s a whole language within the church for this, and so this is—
MR. BARNES: What do you mean?
DR. CAMPBELL: This is really, I think, telling about how the Mormon world view works. Within Mormonism you’ll often hear people refer to active versus inactive Mormons, and an inactive Mormon would be a lapsed Mormon. They’re always spoken of in terms of being inactive or less active. In other words, they’re still part of the team. They’re still part of the tribe, and we just need to go out and bring them back in and love them back into the church.
That is actually a huge effort on the part of any local LDS congregation. There’s a lot of attention paid to insuring that those who are on the rolls of the church but not attending are still invited back and welcomed back. So it’s a group that works very hard to make sure that its own members are darkening the doors of the church.
And in my experience, I don’t think there’s any particular animosity to those who have lapsed. So we might even put—this is maybe not quite fair—but Jon Huntsman, Jr. has made it clear that he’s a different kind of Mormon than Mitt Romney is. I don’t think that that’s a huge concern to many Mormons.
That would be different, however, for someone who actually repudiated or turned away in sort of an active, overt way from the faith. I think that would be viewed with great concern or maybe even antagonism.
MR. BARNES: Might be embarrassed not to have at least one other question, and it’s this.
And that is how much the hostility to Mormons among Evangelical Christians and people who are secular, how much effect it might have on the 2012 presidential race, assuming that Mitt Romney is the nominee.
I know an awful lot of Evangelical Christians who tell me all the time that Mormonism is not Christianity, and they don’t like Romney, but if he’s the nominee they’ll vote for him. In fact, I think Robert Jeffress said that. Correct me if I’m wrong.
DR. CAMPBELL: Yeah, that is actually what—
MR. BARNES: And what outweighs it is they don’t like President Obama. Among the seculars, I suspect they’re not going to vote for Romney anyway because they would tend to be more liberal than not.
What’s your take on that?
DR. CAMPBELL: That would be exactly my take on it. I mentioned this op-ed piece that Bob Putnam and I published a few weeks ago on Romney and Mormonism, and this was essentially our point. Objections from Evangelicals will matter in the primaries but not so much in the general election. Objections from seculars are probably not going to matter at all because those folks are not going to vote for a Republican.
There are some caveats to that. If there’s not enthusiasm among the Republican base for the Republican nominee, that can hurt your candidate. John McCain can tell you all about that. Chances are you’re not going to see the same sort of wellspring of enthusiasm for Romney as you did for George W. Bush, and that could definitely hurt him in a general election.
And in the case of concerns from seculars, they are not going to vote for a Republican anyway. It’s not going to matter, but if there’s a lot of talk about Mormonism and a lot of scary things are mentioned, that might sway some moderate voters to think twice about voting for Romney. I don’t think that’s terribly likely, but I suppose that’s a possible scenario.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. I think we have time to get two quick interventions in. Tim Dalrymple and Micheal Flaherty.
MR. DALRYMPLE: David, do you have data on the extent to which Evangelicals or other religious groups actually have an accurate understanding of Mormonism or beliefs that Evangelicals might have about Mormonism that are common amongst Evangelicals and yet wrong?
Is there information kind of just on how Mormons are perceived by religious groups in ways that might depart from reality?
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, we’ve done a little of this where we’ve asked people factual questions about Mormons. Do Mormons believe this? Do Mormons believe that? I actually have to go and look. My recollection is that Evangelicals actually did know a fair amount about Mormon beliefs and so they were a group for which more information wasn’t necessarily helping.
Now, we asked about a relatively small set of things, and I’ve had at least one colleague of mine point out that many of the things we asked about actually parallel pretty closely with what Evangelicals believe: true or false, Mormons don’t drink alcohol; true or false, Mormons pay a ten percent tithe to their church. To an Evangelical, these sound a lot like what they do.
So you might think they’re going to see a commonality between themselves and Mormons, but they don’t. They seem to still have that sort of theological objection that came up earlier about the fact that Mormonism is not Christianity as they define it.
MR. DALRYMPLE: I was raised in an Evangelical atmosphere and at one point I saw in my pastor’s library The Kingdom of the Cults. That’s a Walter Martin book, right? And it has this sexy title and sounds intriguing, and so you read this, and I think actually it has shaped a lot of Evangelical perceptions regarding Mormonism, and yet, you know, I think an awful lot of what you find in there as well as on kind of anti-cult websites is citing some, you know, 19th century Mormon pastor who said something as though it’s authoritative for what the church actually believes, and so a lot of misunderstanding on particularly theological matters.
Maybe I’ll follow up with you and see if you have any data on it.
DR. CAMPBELL: Right, and that’s actually just why I made the point about this Q&A session that Kennedy had after his big speech. Those were exactly the sorts of questions that Kennedy was being asked. He was being asked about these statements made by Popes from, you know, the 19th century, and you could just see the look on Kennedy’s face. “I can’t believe I’m having to answer these questions. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s not the Catholicism I know.”
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Micheal Flaherty.
MICHEAL FLAHERTY, Walden Media: Sure. A statement, then a question. Ard and I are hosting the first annual somethingist meeting at the bar after dinner.
So anyone who wants to join us, we’ll be over there.
And my quick question just to wrap up is I was really surprised at how high Catholics were polling in your data, and I was wondering. I know that that Gallup poll started at ’65 and even then it looked like 90 percent of the folks were comfortable in electing a Catholic, and I was wondering if the data went back to 1960 and if there was a big difference there.
And then this sort of goes to Andy’s point and to Allison’s point. In your polling is there a difference between cultural Catholics and practicing Catholics? Because I wonder if part of what that 90 percent reflects is, well, these are people. You know, we understand Catholics like Ted Kennedy and the rest of them, who would be a lot different than, you know, the governor of Louisiana.
DR. CAMPBELL: Well, I was just looking quickly. I don’t have the slide handy, although I can show you. I actually do have this Gallup data for a Catholic President going farther back than I show here, and it’s fascinating. If you go back to the ’50s, it was 30, 40 percent of Americans said they were uncomfortable with a Catholic President. The line went up, meaning that fewer Americans were objecting to a Catholic until we get to 1960, where the percentage is close to what you find for a Mormon today, and then Kennedy is elected, and the line goes up right afterwards, as you might expect, and it never went down. It continued to climb a little bit until now we’re at a point where there’s sort of no real objection to a Catholic President.
Again, the story—
MR. CROMARTIE: Do you see that happening with Romney?
DR. CAMPBELL: Do I see that happening? Well, the Kennedy precedent suggests that it could, but, on the other hand, the Mormons aren’t Catholics, right? They’re a smaller group of the population, and so we don’t know.
You asked also about people’s reactions to cultural Catholics versus devout Catholics. We only asked about Catholics as a group, but my sense is that actually I don’t think you’d find much differentiation in whether Americans are reacting to a devout Catholic versus a nominal Catholic. I think that those are distinctions that are lost on most non-Catholic Americans.
MR. CROMARTIE: Well, ladies and gentlemen, you can tell the success of our first seminar when we are going over time. Join me in thanking Professor Campbell for a wonderful presentation.
DR. CAMPBELL: Thank you.
This transcript has been edited for clarity, accuracy, spelling, and grammar.