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?

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