Pew Forum: New Study on Mormon Demographics, Practices, Social and Political Views

A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S.” is a new study by the Pew Forum that might help you better understand what kind of people make up the Latter-day Saints in the United States. Part One of the “Landscape Survey” looks at age, gender, race, geographical distribution, and other statistics. You may find a couple of surprises in the data, such as Latter-day Saints being more racially diverse (i.e., less white) than several other religious groups including mainline Protestant churches. The report also examines the differences in age, education, and race of converts versus life-long members. (Unfortunately, the fact that I’m 0.2% Mohawk probably didn’t make it into the stats – but I’m proud to be more diverse than I look.)

Part Two may be even more interesting as it explores the beliefs and practices of Latter-day Saints. Some of the information surprised me.

A similar pattern is seen when it comes to frequency of prayer and Scripture reading. Three-quarters of Mormons (76%) say they read Scripture outside of religious services at least once a week, more than double the figure among the general population (35%). More than nine-in-ten Mormons pray at least once a week, with 82% praying daily. And a majority of Mormons (55%) say they receive a direct answer to a specific prayer request at least once a month.

That’s better than I expected. But what really surprised me is that 58% of the general population prays daily, and only 18% never prays. Prayer is a big part of American life – something you would NEVER suspect from popular media depictions of American life in movies, television, and the popular press. I think most of the people in charge of the media fall into that 18% minority. In their world, if someone is praying daily or reading the scriptures, you know they will end up being the child-abusing, pension-stealing, environment-trashing villain who is planning to kill the Mother Theresa-like saints at the local abortion clinic. But I digress.

Part Three deals with social and political views. “A significant portion of Mormons (68%) also agree that their values are often threatened by Hollywood, which is much higher than among the general population (42%)” – whoa, where does that kind of thinking come from? And there was another surprise:

Mormons are very politically conservative. Six-in-ten Mormons identify as conservative, about three-in-ten (27%) say they consider themselves moderate and only one-in-ten identify as liberal. This is in stark contrast to the general population, in which roughly a third identify as conservative (37%), a third as moderate (36%) and 20% as liberal.

This caught me by surprise. Based on what I’ve been seeing on television, I thought 80% of the population was liberal and the other 20% lived in caves (only coming out occasionally to spread hate and fear, eat a few children and hunt an endangered species into extinction). Guess I need to get out of my cave more often.

Overall, a valuable reference for understanding who the Mormons are, in broad, general terms. But for best results, don’t forget to actually chat with some of us.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

10 thoughts on “Pew Forum: New Study on Mormon Demographics, Practices, Social and Political Views

  1. From one cave-dwelling Mormon to another–thank you for summarizing the Pew Forum study! (I need to get out more as well!!)

  2. You've probably heard it before, but the evidence makes it blatantly clear that Jesus was a liberal.

  3. You've probably heard it before, but the evidence makes it blatantly clear that Jesus was a liberal.

    This is just wishful thinking of a liberal person who thinks God should agree with them.

    First of all, liberalism and conservatism are not unified and absolute philosophies. They only exist relative to each other. A conservative in Iran believes in very different things than a conservative in America.
    To the extend that Jesus did not feel bound to the cultural constraints imposed by corrupt Jewish leadership at the time, you could say that he was "liberal" with respect to the current customs. But that hardly translates to modern day liberalism or "progressivism". Jesus always advocated voluntary charity and generosity. Never, ever did he advocate stealing from others so to be charitable with other peoples money.

    Jesus did teach the law of the harvest, which is "you reap what you sow". Which is the essence of capitalism. Jesus also said that the "idle shall not eat the bread of the laborer" (DC 42:42). This is in direct opposition to the "liberal" strategy of punishing productivity and rewarding laziness through wealth redistribution.

    When God and Jesus say they are the same yesterday, today, and forever, you could say that they, in the strict sense of the word, are the ultimate conservatives.

    So stop with the "Jesus was a liberal". Its a gross oversimplification to compare his rejection of apostate Judaism with modern political, social, and economic philosophies of liberalism and conservatism.

  4. Most of the time when people refer to Christ as a liberal they emphasize his teachings about being charitable and giving to the poor and needy. What these slick speaking liberals totally ignore is the necessity of agency.

    Christ teaches individuals to be charitable with their own substance. Never does he tell us it is right to steal our neighbors' belongings and be charitable with them. It is the individual's choice to do so and not for some third party to force him/her to do so.

    Clearly in God's plan the protection of agency is a higher priority than providing for everyone (that is to say by brute force at the detriment of agency).

  5. Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing this.

    Now that you mention it, you do look a bit Native American!

  6. As a card carrying East coast liberal — I would suggest that the issue isn't belief versus non-belief but the concept of absolute truth versus many truths.

    Here in Manhattan, we have every flavor of every conceivable religion. Some proselytize, others dont, as long as there's no coercion its all one great marketplace of ideas.

    The key is is that its not a zero sum battle. Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn cooexist with reform Jews on the upper west side. Episcopalians and Catholics build grand cathedrals that are public spaces for whoever wants to use them.

    Whether you go to the Metropolitan opera, or the Metropolitan church, (or both!) us liberals arent in search of absolute truth but a truth that works for us. We sould never dream of telling a Hindu, Buddhist or Jew — ancient religious traditions that predate christianity by thousands of years and together have billions of adherents that they are wrong. If they want to explore somethin esle, that's great — but its based on intellectual honesty not creepy sounding claims of exclusivity.

    btw — love your blog — because it exemplifies liberalism — smart, informative, intelligent and respectful of others!

  7. as a personally conservative but open-minded (economically) Mormon . . .

    I would suggest that when Jesus in the Doctrine & Covenants says (paraphrase) that the idler shall not eat the bread of the laborer . . .

    that a person who sits on the phone all day and manages his/her stocks/bonds/CDs and other investments and then sits down to a lavish meal is eating the bread of teenagers and younger working in unsafe factories throughout Asia, South America and other parts of the world who will NOT eat such fine food and who are working much harder than that smug, self-satisfied American 'capitalist'–

    even if he/she is a Mormon–

    I think the ultimate irony will be when Jesus comes and the LDS youth who worked 12 hour days in a poorly ventilated sweatshop . . . in some part of Asia or South America . . .

    meets the well-fed Utah Mormon who did a good job of wheeling and dealing and making the right investments and then talks about being conservative and "working" for his bread–

    that will be a "rich" moment, indeed–

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