Friday, January 6, 2012

Poll Position Survey Indicates 36 Percent Of Respondents Would Not Vote For A Mormon Presidential Candidate

Despite the presence of two candidates in the presidential race who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and notwithstanding the highly professional and motivational I Am A Mormon outreach campaign by the Church, suspicion of Mormonism isn't going away overnight. A polling outfit I've never previously heard of, Poll Position, conducted a scientific telephone survey of 1,133 registered voters nationwide on December 15th, 2011, and found that 36 percent of respondents still would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. Only 39 percent said they would, and 25 percent either had no opinion or chose not to answer the question.

As expected, there's a split between Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Among Republicans, 48 percent said they would vote for a Mormon, 29 percent said they would not, and 23 percent did not offer an opinion. Democrats were less likely to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, with 46 percent saying they would not, 28 percent saying they would, and 27 percent with no opinion. Among Independents, 39 percent said they would vote, 34 percent said they would not, and 27 percent with no opinion.

Of even greater interest was the demographic breakdown shown in the crosstabs. This provides us good insight into how Mormons and Mormonism is viewed by various demographics, and can be used to determine how to better fine-tune and channel our message.

-- 52.9 percent of the 18-29 demographic would not vote for a Mormon
-- 37.6 percent of the 30-44 demographic would not vote for a Mormon
-- 31.2 percent of the 45-64 demographic would not vote for a Mormon
-- 23.6 percent of the 65+ demographic would not vote for a Mormon
-- 35.5 percent of Whites would not vote for a Mormon
-- 43.9 percent of Blacks would not vote for a Mormon
-- 31.5 percent of Hispanics would not vote for a Mormon
-- 28.2 percent of Other races would not vote for a Mormon
-- 40.5 percent of Males would not vote for a Mormon
-- 31.5 percent of Females would not vote for a Mormon

"Other" races would include Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Alaska Natives. Pacific Islanders have been more receptive towards Mormonism than other races.

The disparity between Whites and Blacks is attributable to a number of factors. More Blacks tend to vote Democratic than Republican, and Black support of Barack Obama in 2008 was overwhelming. However, the Priesthood ban against Blacks is undoubtedly a factor as well, even though it was lifted in 1978. While the Church has no reason to formally apologize for it unless they find out it was clearly in error, Church leaders need to come up with a better explanation for its origin. "We don't know" doesn't cut it.

What's particularly disturbing is that so many within the 18-29 demographic would not vote for a Mormon. This indicates that there may a breakdown in the delivery of our message to the rising young generation, and since youth are the future of the Church, this is of great concern. Is the problem with the message or with the medium?

I suspect the main problem is with the medium. The predominant youth pop culture contains many elements moderately or totally inconsistent with LDS values and standards. Youth are bombarded with an endless array of suggestive messages from the media, many of them with sexual overtones. These messages promise instant gratification and endless pleasure. Many female entertainers appear in public dressed in fashions totally inconsistent with LDS standards. Correspondingly, our image and our message may appear dowdy and uninspiring when compared on the surface with these secular messages.

The perceived political profile of Mormons may also be turning off young people. Dr. Robert P. Jones notes that despite the fact that young people, referred to as Millenials, have been more accepting of minority religious groups than older groups, their anxiety over a Mormon president likely has less to do with the religious beliefs of Mormons and more to do with the perceived political profile of Mormons and the LDS Church. Millenials have been taught that political correctness is a virtue, and we in the Church are more concerned about being spiritually correct.

Since we're not about to become politically correct, what we have to do instead is to package Mormonism to our youth in a manner that will attract more of them without compromising our standards. One example is rap music. Most of us oldsters absolutely hate rap music, and for good reason; much of it is highly misogynistic. But we forget that when we were young, our music shocked and horrified our parents as well. Have we thought of using the rap genre as another means to deliver our message, or will we continue to play the same old saccharine slop at our youth dances? Undoubtedly there are members of the Church capable of producing "Mormon rap"; have any been asked to try it?

The I Am A Mormon campaign is a good start, but we might need to become a bit more edgy to win the attention of more of the youth. We have to convince the youth that Mormonism is cool, and that grooming and dressing according to LDS standards is a more original and authentic way of expressing individuality than vandalizing one's body with tattoos and piercings. Our youth are too important to be left to the wiles of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

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