Monthly Archives: September 2013

Partisanship and attitudes toward Mormons in the 2012 election

My last post looked at aggregate attitudes toward Mormons and Mormonism in the general public as per the 2012 ANES study. Now we can dig a little bit deeper and examine how these attitudes are affected by partisanship. On one hand, we might expect Republicans to be more favorable toward Mormons due to their shared conservative social policy agenda and voting patterns. However, there is also a fair amount of anti-Mormonism among the Evangelical wing of the Republican Party. Conversely, Democrats might inclined to see Mormons favorably due to an ideological commitment to multiculturalism and religious diversity. This may be hampered somewhat, though, by opposing policy preferences (notably on California Proposition 8) and other conservative policy priorities. So how do attitudes toward Mormons vary by partisanship?

For the purposes of this analysis, Independent partisans who lean toward one party or another are grouped with the partisans.

Percent who agree that Mormonism is a Christian religion:

  • Democrats: 46%
  • Independents: 49%
  • Republicans: 58%

How many Mormons do you know personally? (Numbers indicate averages, excluding those who know more than 100 to account for outliers.)

  • Democrats: 2.3
  • Independents: 1.9
  • Republicans: 3.2

Mormon feeling thermometer rating (0=cold, 100=warm, 50=ambivalent; numbers indicate averages):

  • Democrats: 41.5
  • Independents: 40.6
  • Republicans: 51.7

How much commonality do you perceive between your beliefs and those of Mormons? (higher values = less commonality perceived, 5-point scale):

  • Democrats: 4.3 (=a little)
  • Independents: 4.2 (=a little)
  • Republicans: 3.7 (=a little/moderate amount)

All in all we see a definite trend: Republicans in the U.S. are slightly more likely than Democrats to view Mormons favorably, report that they know some Mormons, correctly identify them as Christians, and say that they perceive a little more in common with them. 

That being said, approximately 40% of Republicans tend to have generally unfavorable/unfamiliar attitudes while 40% of Democrats tend to have generally favorable/familiar attitudes. So there’s more to the story than pure partisanship. This does, however, gives us some hints into how public perceptions of Mormons differed between Republican and Democratic partisans during the 2012 election.

The interesting question to me is the extent to which this is a result of in-group/out-group effect. In other words, were Republicans more inclined to view Mormons favorably in 2012 than in other years simply because their standard bearer (Mitt Romney) was also a Mormon? And conversely, were Democrats more inclined to dislike Mormons out of a transfer effect from their feelings toward Mitt Romney?

Some helpful debt ceiling negotiation analogies

Obama has a house for sale, and his asking price is $300,000. He is facing an opponent (the hardline wing of the House Republican party) who is offering $1,000 and threatening to blow up the house if there is no deal. Obama isn’t saying he won’t negotiate. He’s saying he’ll only negotiate once the offering price is something plausible, say $200,000, and the threat to blow up the house is off the table.

Full article available here:

Imagine that Putin stepped forward tomorrow morning and announced that Russia had developed a computer virus that would shut down the market for U.S. Treasuries and that he would release that virus unless Obama agreed to a list of Russian demands.

No one would say Russia was asking for negotiations with Obama. They would say Russia was holding the U.S. economy hostage and demanding that Obama pay a ransom. No Republican — and no Democrat — would advice Obama to take that meeting. The sole question would be prevention and, if necessary, reprisal.

This is the core disagreement between the White House and the Republican Party. The Republican Party thinks it’s offering the White House something it wants — the continued creditworthiness of the United States of America — in return for things the GOP wants, like a one-year delay on Obamacare.

But the White House doesn’t see an increase in the debt limit as something that the Republicans are giving them. As Obama put it in his news conference: “Paying America’s bills is not a concession to me. That’s not doing me a favor.”

Full article available here:

Public attitudes toward Mormonism and the 2012 presidential election

This is the first in a series of posts examining the role that public attitudes toward Mormons and Mormonism played in the 2012 election.

Throughout the 2012 campaign there was much attention given to how Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith might affect his run for the White House. Now that several months have elapsed, we can examine more thoroughly just how individual attitudes toward Mormons and Mormonism affected voter decision-making in the election.

Recently, the 2012 American National Election Study was released. This was a survey of over 6,000 Americans and included hundreds of questions about their political attitudes and behavior. The ANES study is considered by academics as one of the “gold standards” of political surveys that has helped provide insight into the political behavior of American citizens for over 50 years. There are a number of questions about attitudes toward Mormonism contained in the 2012 ANES survey. 

The first is a “feeling thermometer.” This question asks survey respondents to indicate their feelings toward a particular person or group on a 0-100 scale. 100 indicates very favorable feelings and 0 indicates very unfavorable feelings. Here is a histogram of the “Mormon feeling thermometer” responses among those who took the survey:  


The average score, clearly, is 50 on a scale of 0-100. 40% of respondents said 50, 10% said 60, and 8% said 40.

On another question, 51.5% correctly identified that Mormonism is a Christian religion, while 48.5% of respondents reported that Mormonism is not a Christian religion.

Respondents were also asked how many Mormons they personally knew. 53% of survey respondents indicated that they did not know any Mormons personally. 13% said they knew 1, 23% said they knew between 2-9 Mormons, and only 11% of the population reported knowing more than 10 Mormons personally.

Finally, survey respondents were asked how much commonality they perceived between Mormon beliefs and their own. Their responses:

  • 39% “nothing at all”
  • 33% “a little”
  • 21% “a moderate amount”
  • 4% “a lot”
  • 3% “a great deal”

What do these results suggest? Despite the aggressive missionary program and public relations campaign on the part of the Mormon church, the results of this survey suggest that most Americans don’t know any Mormons (or very few), perceive very little in common with them (only 7% of respondents say that they have a lot in common with Mormons), and feel, at best, ambivalently toward them (50% on the feeling thermometer and nearly half identifying them as non-Christian). Apparently, the perceived “other-ness” of Mormonism is alive and well in the American public.

My next post will dig deeper into the relationship between attitudes toward Mormons and other relevant political opinions and behaviors.

Demographic voting patterns in the 2012 Danville City Commission election

The following table presents percentages of various sub-groups of the population and how votes for the various 2012 Danville City Commission candidates were distributed among these various population groups. The data is collected from the 2012 Boyle County Exit Poll.

The table should be interpreted like this: the first row indicates that among those who self-identify as liberal, 35% cast a vote for Smiley (first column), 21% for Montgomery (second column), 23% for Louis (third column), etc. Among those who self-identify as conservative (second row), 48% voted for Smiley (first column), 35% for Montgomery (second column), etc.

Meaningful differences should be interpreted by comparing up and down across rows, instead of between columns. Those on the right side of the table have higher values because they got more votes overall and won the election. To see if there is an advantage for any single candidate among different groups, compare the candidate in the same column with figures in different rows. (For example, examining Stevens on the far right column, we see that liberals were 10% more likely to vote for her than conservatives (71% to 61%), while conservatives were 13% more likely to vote for Smiley (48% to 35%).)

  % Smiley % Montgomery % Louis % Hamner % Atkins % Caudill % Stevens
Liberal 35% 21% 23% 58% 71% 64% 71%
Conservative 48% 35% 43% 38% 50% 50% 61%
Democrat 33% 19% 27% 54% 69% 59% 70%
Republican 51% 35% 36% 41% 52% 54% 63%
Income < $20K/year 42% 43% 40% 45% 58% 40% 57%
Income between $20K-$50K/year 48% 32% 35% 46% 53% 50% 61%
Income > $50K/year 39% 24% 27% 51% 65% 60% 69%
Never attend church 33% 21% 23% 62% 64% 60% 74%
Attend church more than 1 per week 42% 26% 33% 44% 58% 56% 66%
High school education 49% 31% 38% 41% 54% 44% 58%
College education 37% 26% 34% 50% 57% 55% 62%
White 44% 26% 32% 50% 61% 58% 68%
Non-white 28% 33% 30% 39% 65% 33% 53%
Female 42% 23% 34% 48% 62% 53% 67%
Male 39% 31% 29% 50% 61% 57% 64%
Under age 30 47% 30% 28% 49% 57% 49% 65%
Age 30-49 40% 32% 31% 54% 57% 54% 64%
Age 50-64 46% 20% 37% 45% 72% 60% 69%
Over age 65 43% 28% 32% 49% 61% 55% 66%
Tea Party supporter 51% 40% 40% 43% 46% 57% 65%
Evangelical 49% 30% 44% 39% 51% 52% 63%
Mainline 39% 19% 23% 55% 69% 69% 74%
Black Protestant 24% 35% 6% 41% 82% 47% 65%
Catholic 46% 37% 31% 46% 59% 56% 62%
Approve Mayor Hunstad 45% 45% 54% 40% 47% 42% 56%
Approve City Commission 42% 41% 46% 45% 53% 41% 59%

How did minorities vote in the 2012 Danville City Commission election?

In total, 1,461 Boyle County voters completed the 2012 Boyle County Exit Poll. Of those, 1,038 reported being Danville residents of whom 120 reported non-white race/ethnicity, or a total of 12.1% of Danville voters. Here is a summary of how minority voters in Danville voted in the city commission race compared to those reporting “white” race/ethnicity. (See here for more information about the poll, response rates, margin of error, etc.)

Note: the following figures should be interpreted by % vote for candidate or % indicating approval for each particular issue. For example, the first row indicates that 27.6% of minorities voted for Paul Smiley while 43.9% of non-minorities voted for Smiley.

  Minority Non-minority
Voted for Smiley 27.6% 43.9%
Voted for Montgomery 32.7% 25.6%
Voted for Louis 29.9% 31.9%
Voted for Hamner 39.2% 50.1%
Voted for Atkins 64.9% 60.6%
Voted for Caudill 32.7% 58.4%
Voted for Stevens 52.6% 68.0%
Jobs 30.2% 35.3%
Education 21.7% 13.5%
Racial/ethnic tension 13.2% 1.0%
Danville on the right track 70.2% 70.3%
Approve Mayor Hunstad 47.7% 40.2%
Approve City Commission 60.8% 39.1%
Approve of water plant expansion 68.4% 73.1%
Approve of Tony Gray appointment 86.3% 88.0%
Approve of Ron Scott appointment 57.0% 44.8%
Approve of city budget process 45.9% 39.8%
Approve of VP debate preparations 86.6% 93.3%
Approve of BISCO building purchase 52.4% 35.9%