Between October 25 and November 16 of last year, researchers for the Pew Forum interviewed 1,019 Americans who identified themselves as “Mormon.” That point is key.
There was surprise among the researchers and advisory board (including myself), and no doubt among the General Authorities when it turned out that 77% of Mormons in America attend church every week, because it is received common knowledge among most who care about such things that the actual rate of attendance (and tithepaying &etc) is nowhere near this high.
This likely tells us not that the survey’s incorrect – though it’s sparked a new front in the building war over who owns the term “Mormon.” Rather, it tells us that people who call themselves “Mormon” attend church at pretty high rates, or say they do. And it tells us that, perhaps, Mormons who don’t go to church much might not call themselves “Mormon.” The dynamics of semi-/in-/or (sigh) less- activity are murky and fascinating, and the results of this survey seem to indicate that the inactive engaged Mormons (those who care about the church even though they don’t go) are probably vastly outnumbered by the inactive disengaged.
That said, a few interesting tidbits that David Campbell and I discussed in the conference call this morning.
+Mormons seem remarkably ambivalent about their place in America. Nearly half say that Mormons face discrimination in America. Fewer than that a third believe that Americans think Mormonism is mainstream. But more than half think America is ready for a Mormon president. Lots of aspirational Romney voters out there.
This, though, gets at something I sense running through the entire survey: Mormons are not yet ready to surrender their insularity, their sense of being a peculiar people, their powerful community. Nearly six in ten Mormons say that all or most of their friends are also Mormon. To some extent, Mormons value being different. We’ll see this again when we talk about helping the poor.
+Also, 90% of Mormons like their lives.
+77% of Mormons identify as sympathetic to the Republican party. However, on one major hot-button issue – immigration – Mormons are way more moderate than nearly every other conservative religious group.
+Additionally, Mormon conservatism is a wine of relatively recent vintage: unlike nearly every other group in America, younger Mormons identify as more conservative than older Mormons.
+Despite all this more Mormons believe that gay people face discrimination in America than who think Mormons face discrimination in America.
+75% of Mormons say they want a smaller government with fewer services, but . . .
+ 73% of Mormons said that helping the poor is essential to being a good Mormon. This is more than the number of Mormons who believe that obeying the Word of Wisdom, having Family Home Evening, or not watching R-rated movies. It’s close to the number that believe that you have to think Joseph Smith saw God. So Mormons may not be big on the welfare state, but they do believe in helping the poor. This likely reflects the Welfare Program.
+Finally, going on a mission makes you like other religions more. It’s true. Look it up.