Mormon Voting: Religion May Not Have Been a Big Factor

From the Pew Forum, “How the Faithful Voted: 2012 Preliminary Analysis” we have exit-poll data on how Mormons voted in 2012 and in 2004 when it was Kerry vs. Bush (hat tip to David Heap). A slightly higher percentage of Mormons supported Obama this time than supported Kerry (21% vs. 19%). Mormons are still highly oriented toward the Republican Party, but it would seem untenable to argue that Romney’s religion played a key role in swinging Mormon voters his way or that Mormons voted for a candidate primarily due to his religion. I can testify that at least one faithful Mormon didn’t like either candidate and voted Libertarian, though I won’t disclose his name to protect his ever dwindling privacy.

When Obama won four years ago, my sense was that a lot of Mormons who had opposed Obama could at least have a superficial, momentary sense of pride for the nation in being able to clearly get past its racial problems of the past and elect a black president. Had Romney won, I don’t think that the Mormons who opposed him (and his opponents in general) would have had a similar sense of pride for America in being able to elect a Mormon president. I think a sense of terror would be the more common emotion. Maybe I’m reading things wrong, of course.

For me, I was hoping that if we did get a Mormon President, perhaps if things went well internationally and economically, and if America somehow ended up looking like a good guy instead of a global brute and spendthrift about to bring down the global economy (and if we didn’t blame China for our problems), then perhaps it would create positive interest globally in the Church. Ha ha! Crazy, now that I think about it more clearly. A brief delusion. (The Lord has better ways of opening doors.) I’m now grateful that a Mormon won’t be the one blamed for the apparent mess ahead. Can we dodge that bullet by spending more and further deflating our currency? Hmmm, let’s give it a try…. It worked for Zimbabwe, right? Go for it, Mr. Bernanke!

And good luck, Mr. President. May there be peace.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

19 thoughts on “Mormon Voting: Religion May Not Have Been a Big Factor

  1. I must admit to having had many of the same fears you had about what might happen after Romney was elected, but I am still sad that he was not elected. I believe that Romney would have been a great leader during these difficult times, but the voice of the people has chosen a rather different path.

    I do not believe that Obama is a bad man. I think that he sincerely believes that his plans and policies are the best for us all. Some of them may be, but I disagree strongly with many of them and hated having things like Obamacare rammed down by tricks and technicalities. I also deeply loathe the way he and other Democrats demonized their opponents. Unfortunately, there have been all too many on the other side demonizing right back.

    This feels so very much like the situation among the people in 3 Nephi 6:14-16 just a few years after their great victory over the Gadianton Robbers. The thought occurred to me a couple weeks ago that if Mitt Romney was elected (which then looked likely) his term in office might turn out all too much like that of the great Nephite chief judge Lachoneus (3 Ne 3:1 and 6:6). Successful, but all too transitory.

    I guess that we really are meant to be "strangers and pilgrims on the earth… seeking a better country" (Hebrews 11:13,16). Take care.

  2. In 3 Nephi 6:15 we read that "Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches…."

    Now, if someone runs for president, is that not by definition "to seek for power and authority"? And if someone goes to Harvard Business School, and then founds a company like Bain Capital, is that not to seek for riches?

    In other words, isn't 3 Nephi 6:15 a good description of Mitt Romney? If so, then wouldn't Mormon voters have good scriptural reason to be hesitant about him? (This wouldn't necessarily be a reason to vote for Obama, merely to be wary of Romney.)

    — Eveningsun

  3. I felt mixed about the possible Romney presidency from the start. At first, I wondered whether or not he would ever even be nominated. After nomination, I worried that our church would end up getting a lot of flak from various forces. At election night, I pretty much had it figured out that he wouldn't win, but that not having a win would actually be a good thing. Why? Because now that we aren't on the political radar regardless of what goes on in D.C. politics, the church will continue making a difference in the world with its growing program for disaster relief, humanitarian aid, missionary service, and so on.

    I agree with Tom, Obama is a decent person in the realm of his personal life. The larger problem, however, is the financial and family values present among the greater U.S. populace, who feel it alright to vote for poor financial values and plenty of ill-mannered politicians. It gives much of an idea about the tremendous missionary burden before us. If only many times the entire membership of our church could just hear the principles of thrift living, minimizing and paying off debt quickly, and the remainder, the world would be a far better place than it currently is.

    I worry about the political situation in the fact that the financial situation looks very bad, it won't look pretty for plenty of people who really need financial and health assistance in the coming years, with the rate at which our government continues to accumulate debt and expand its overall budget.

    Tom, you also bring up a good point about the contention rampant in politics, it's really disappointing that people run more on accusations and distortions than delivering their own message. It's frankly disappointing, and honestly part of the problem. If they actually focused on what they were doing rather than making up sketches of everything other than themselves, we probably would see a constructive budget off the deficits a long time ago.

    Anon, Simply taking for business school is hardly something that shows someone seeking riches, there are generous, actively serving rich people, and envious, demanding poor, you really can't tell about who someone is unless you read their minds, which is simply a right reserved to God, and no one else. It could be Romney, it could Obama, it could be both, but given Romney's willingness not to drag on a contention over voter fraud, something above many recent candidates, that's incredibly unlikely, and very hard to believe. Likewise his willingness to quickly respond and ask for donations to be diverted to the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, I have a hard time believing it even more.

    Overall, the real thing that impressed me was the positive character representation that Romney offered for the church. He chose character over actually winning, which while pundits criticize, I admire by bounds, as a disclaimer, this is just me, but I would say that he moved miles to represent the church in a positive way while a candidate.

  4. Ben, I agree. Even though he didn't win the election, Romney presented himself well enough for his candidacy to be a net plus for the Church.

    Another minority group benefiting from their increased visibility after this election will be gay and lesbian Americans. According to a report by Scott Wooledge:

    "Come January, we'll have our first out LGB United States senator. The House will have at least six LGBT members including a second gay dad and the first gay person of color. In Colorado, an out gay man will serve as House Speaker, and a lesbian will be Senate pro-tem, the number two position in that chamber. Hundreds of out members of the gay community won in state and local races."

    All these wins, plus Romney's near-miss, point to an increasingly tolerant nation.

    — Eveningsun

  5. I am extremely disappointed to face another 4 years of Obama as president, but I am even more disappointed by the number of LDS church members who choose to align themselves with, and vote for candidates who, support abortion and the legalization of gay marriage. I don't believe that you can embrace the fullness of the Gospel and support these ideas. The Church's official policy states:
    "Members are encouraged to support measures that strengthen the moral fabric of society, particularly those designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society."
    I think you'd have a hard time arguing that abortion strengthens the moral fabric of society. Also, I do recall in temple recommend interviews, being asked if I supported or was affiliated with any group that teaches things that are in opposition to Church teachings. I don't think that a Democrat could honestly answer that they don't, knowing where the DNC stands on issues such as these, but perhaps there are a lot fewer temple-worthy members of the Church than I realize.

  6. Emily, you seem to be saying that because the Democratic Party is pro-choice and supports gay marriage, a good Mormon cannot be a Democrat.

    My own understanding is different, but I'm not LDS so I will defer to others on this question. Anyone care to clarify?

    — Eveningsun

  7. Pres. Heber J. Grant was a Democrat. A good Mormon can be a Democrat. One thing about being associated with Democrats is to teach them about how wrong abortion is, and I have been successful in getting some Democrats to change their views on abortion.
    Romney keeps liquor in his house for his non-LDS friends. Is he a good Mormon or not for doing this? Romney was asked during his Mother's campaign for Congress if he would ever run for political office and he said at the moment he wanted to concentrate on making millions, then he would think about politics. Is he a good Mormon for seeking riches first?
    What Romney did with Bain Capital was against church teachings. So how can he be a good Mormon?
    Republicans demonize their opponents too.
    The trouble with people is too many have blinders on, can only see one side of things and issues. Mormons get mad when people do that to their religion, but yet Mormons do that too.

  8. Some things the Republican party does goes against Christ's teachings.
    I know Republicans who support gay marriage and abortion, and I know Democrats who do not support gay marriage and abortion.
    So saying a Mormon can not be a Democrat and a good Mormon is ludicrous.
    I know members who are not good members, are Republicans, but yet get a temple recommend.
    We are not supposed to condemn.
    Disappointing that the majority of church members do that.

  9. Anonymous #1 – I do believe that in 2012,the priorities of the Democratic National Party and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are in opposition to one another. There are many good things about the Democratic Party, but it always makes me think of the old Mormonad from the New Era, with the picture of the ice cream sundae with a big roach on top – it's all good except the bad parts.

  10. To anonymous #2 – President Heber J. Grant was NOT a democrat in 2012. Abortion was not an issue at all then. Roe vs. Wade didn't come along until nearly 30 years after he died. During his lifetime, sexuality was not discussed publicly, so gay rights weren't even a dream back then. He lived long before the Civil Rights movement.
    Based on his views of President Roosevelt's New Deal policies, which he said he was afraid would create a "dole mentality," he would reject most of the entitlement programs we have today, which have been a pet project of the Democrats. He said, "Many people have said, … ‘Well, others are getting some [government relief], why should not I get some of it?’ I believe that there is a growing disposition among the people to try to get something from the government of the United States with little hope of ever paying it back. I think this is all wrong.” So yes, he was a Democrat, but the party platform in the first half of the 20th century was barely even comparable to the platform in 2012.
    That platform specifically states "The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right." So if you manage to convince a few Democrats that abortion is wrong, good for you. But in the meantime, that party is going to see to it that your tax dollars are paying for abortions for women whom you've failed to convince.
    In reference to homosexuals, Gordon B. Hinckley said, "we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families.” Supporting these choices is much more serious than “standing idle." The Democratic party does not just wish to look the other way while homosexuals do as they will. They want to legalize everything about what the scriptures clearly define as "an abomination." This just isn't a gray area to me at all.
    So, for these and other reasons, the Democratic party is no place for someone who embraces the teachings of the restored gospel.
    As for Romney and his personal choices and beliefs, I wouldn't presume to know what he has in his kitchen cabinets. I don't travel in his social circles. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (not the liquor). That said, I am a person who appreciates evidence over accusation. Show me a picture of Romney pouring the bourbon in his own house for his non-LDS guests, and I might believe it. But in the day and age of photoshopping, maybe not.
    Making millions before running for political office seems like getting a job before applying for a mortgage, to me. In this month's elections, it took our newly elected sheriff over a quarter of a million dollars to get into his new position. Politics takes a lot of money. It makes a lot of sense to me that Romney chose to make his own rather than depend on his family's money before running for any office.
    As for: "What Romney did with Bain Capitol was against church teachings"…. I can't even address such a vague claim.
    My point was never that I think Romney is so awesome and the absolute definition of a good Mormon. It was that I don't believe that you can embrace the fullness of the gospel and support (through your vote or party membership) a party whose platform peddles gay marriage and free abortions.

  11. From Anon.#2: Wow. I am glad that for some people everything is simple: believe the way I believe and be a Republican or you are a bad, unworthy member.

    Morality is hard to legislate. People are going to do illegal or bad things regardless of laws.

    The article about Romney keeping alcohol for non-member friends came from one of those friends in a news article.

    My understanding of Bain is when they would buy a company out to "reorganize" it they loaded the company with debt, unbeknownst to everyone in the company except for Bain people, which caused the company to fold and Bain walked away with millions. The company and its employees would think they were getting help. Everyone in the company lost jobs not knowing Bain secretly made the company fail. Not illegal according to laws but unethical and not very moral of which I am being accused.

    How about him strapping the family dog to the roof of his car for 600 miles, which is a true story. The poor dog became ill. Romney showed he is not capable of compassion.

    I don't begrudge Romney of his money, just how he made it.

    Oh and Romney accused Obama of buying votes. Where is that proof?
    Grave accusations.

    For your information I do not vote a party line and I did not vote for Obama nor Romney.

  12. From Anon. #2: It is early and I forgot to say this, and this will be it.
    I will fight to the death for the rights of unborn children and against abortion. I will oppose gay marriage.
    I lean to the Democrats because unlike the Republican party, the Democratic party fights for causes and issues I believe in that are important(other than abortion and gay rights).
    The Democrats are for the underdog, the common man, and I am one of those underdogs. I have had a hard life and continue to have a hard life. The Democrats represent what I need to help me achieve a better life. I work when I can find it (I lost my job 5 years ago) and go to college when I can afford it.
    To judge and condemn me for being a Democrat is wrong, not Christ like, goes against what the Church teaches and causes contention which is exactly what Satan wants.
    I am not going to vote for someone just because they don't believe in everything I believe or believe what I don't believe. If a candidate can help achieve what I do believe in and it is good and they have the power to make the change if elected and it helps me then I will vote for that person regardless of party affiliation.
    I am not going to limit myself or my voice at the voting booth. For me it is not as black and white the way some people make it out to be. Abortion and gay marriage will always be hot, controversial topics that will never be resolved in this mortal world. We can have law after law and people will still get abortions and still be homosexual and live with their partner. The Church has even gone to bat for homosexuals on certain issues like discrimination in housing, benefits and the work place. Just because I may vote for a Democrat that can do good in other areas that will help me and other causes I believe in does not make me a bad member. People should respect that and accept that. How narrow minded and hypocritical to judge me. You don't know me. I am not going to vote for a Republican who is known to be corrupt and made shady, questionable deals and committed adultery just because he/she opposes abortion and gay marriage. Get off your high horse. Diversity is what makes our Church great and interesting. As a matter of fact I have joined forces with my Catholic Aunt in fighting abortion and Planned Parenthood, and the Susan G. Komen group and she is an Independent. My Bishop has deemed me worthy to have a Temple recommend and I don't lie like some members do.

  13. I know this is late and probably won't be read.
    Eveningsun and Emily Parker:
    Elder Marlin Jensen is a Democrat and so was Elder James E. Faust and Sen. Harry Reid.

    Every year at election time the Church issues statements saying in part: "….we affirm the Church's neutrality regarding political parties, platforms, and candidates."

    The Church stresses that "…principles compatible with the Gospel may be found in various political parties."

    Elder Faust has said that "It is in the interest of the Church to have a two party system…"
    Church leaders have also said at various times that the Church suffers without diversity.

    In 1998 Elder Marlin Jensen said "…it would be very healthy for the Church, particularly the Utah Church, if the common misconception one cannot be a good Mormon and a Democrat, could be obliterated."

    Elder Jensen also said that an overwhelmingly Republican affiliation weakens the checks and balances.

    Hope this helps.

  14. Anonymous #2 – You massively oversimplify and put words in my mouth. I never said you had to be a Republican, and a common and frustrating perception is that there are only 2 political parties. Perhaps if you come to realize that neither of the 2 major parties reflects the values which you hold most dear, you should either find another or start your own! It is not necessary to settle for a party that embraces ideals which our scriptures have identified as "an abomination" just because you don't agree with all of the priorities of the other major party. The 2 party system is a BIG part of the problem in our country today!

    Again, you spend a lot of time and effort focusing an attack on Romney at me, when I never even directed my comments at supporting him. I don't care if you don't like him. At this point, it is certainly irrelevant. Your comments about him are simply throwing a red herring into the argument about supporting a party that promotes immoral values, which has nothing at all to do with the former presidential candidate from the other major party.

    As for your argument about judging and condemning you, I will point out that I have not done either. In my initial post, I questioned whether a Democrat could honestly answer the temple-recommend question of whether or not you support or are affiliated with an organization which teaches things in opposition to the Church. My intent was not to judge, but to provoke thought, particularly in my Church friends who are Democrats. My grandmother died an ignorant Democrat who refused to believe that the party that her daddy chose would embrace abortion or homosexuality. Ignorance is a serious issue.

    I particularly find it interesting that you feel so personally offended, and judged by my comments, of which absolutely zero were directed at you personally. I have stated facts, pointed out the commentary of church leadership, and shared my opinion and frustrations on this issue. If you feel judged, perhaps you need to look inside yourself to find the source.

    Janice- thank you for your comments, late or otherwise. While I agree that a multi-party system is necessary, and certainly in the interests of the church, as I said before, we are not limited to Republican and Democrat. A number of independent candidates were elected to Congress this November. There is value there.

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