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Religious information

Prejudice of Americans towards
Mormons and Evangelicals

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Attitudes towards Mormons:

The Gallup News Service reported their findings on their survey of American adult's views on "the Mormon religion," as conducted on 2007-FEB-22 to 25. This term would probably be interpreted by most Americans as referring to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, centered in Salt Lake City, UT. It is by far the largest denomination among the approximately 100 faith groups in the LDS Restorationist movement. The survey may have been prompted by Mitt Romney, a Republican Mormon, who is running for the presidency in 2008.

Some of their findings:

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46% of Americans have an unfavorable view of the Mormon religion; 42% have a favorable opinion. (9% very favorable, 33% somewhat favorable, 30% somewhat unfavorable, 16% very unfavorable, 11% no opinion.)

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Residents in the East, Republicans, political liberals, Protestants, and frequent church attendees tended to have the most negative view of the Mormons.

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The four most common thoughts that come to mind when people consider Mormons were:
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Polygamy

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Salt Lake City, or Utah

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Good people / kind / caring / strong morals

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Dislike their beliefs / don't agree with their doctrines / false teachings.

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Among those less likely to vote for a Mormon, 60% said that there is no chance they would do so.

Number of samples: 1,018; Margin of error 4% 1

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released on 2007-FEB-27 found that 29% of Americans said they would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who is a Mormon. 4% would be more likely, and 66% said it would not matter. The four main reasons given were:

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39% disagree with / uncomfortable with / dislike Mormonism

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12% don't know enough about Mormons

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11% worry about the influence of the Mormon church.

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7% Mormons are not true Christians

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6% multiple wives / polygamy

Polygyny -- the practice of one man marrying multiple wives -- is today found only within very small fundamentalist Mormon denominations, notably The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). The main Mormon denomination, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prohibited polygyny as a result of what they believe to have been a command by God in 1890 CE. They currently excommunicate any member who practices plural marriage.

A curious finding is that 21% of the American people would also be less likely to vote for a candidate who smokes cigarettes. On a positive note, those bigoted against women (14%) are neatly balanced by those who are bigoted for women (14%). Those racially biased against blacks (7%) are almost completely balanced by those biased for blacks (6%).

Number of samples: 1,082; Margin of error 3%. 2

Attitudes towards Evangelical Christians by college & university professors:

Gary A. Tobin is the director and chief pollster of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco CA. He and Aryeh K. Weinberg, polled professors at public and private, secular and religious, two and four-year colleges across the U.S. about their attitudes towards various religious groups. Ratings ranged from warm or favorable to very cool or unfavorable. Tobin and Weinberg write:

"When we ask questions like this, we're asking the respondent to say how they feel about an entire group of people, and whatever image they have of that entire group comes through. There is no question this is revealing bias and prejudice."

The study was mainly geared to assess the degree of anti-semitism at colleges. They found that professors expressed positive feelings towards Buddhists, Jews, Roman Catholics and most other religious groups. Some of his findings:

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Almost half (48%) of faculty regard themselves as political liberals; this compares with 22% of the general population.

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The percentage of faculty with warm or favorable feelings towards Jews is 73%, Buddhists 68%, Roman Catholics 64%, non-evangelical Christians 62%, people of no religion 50%, and Atheists 41%. Faculty of the various religions were excluded from rating their own group.

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33% of faculty have negative feelings about Mormons -- the second highest of any faith group.

Concerning evangelical Christians:

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71% agree or agree strongly "...that evangelical Christians should keep their religious beliefs out of American politics."

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Only 30% of faculty feel warm/favorably about evangelical Christians with only 11% feeling very warm/favorable. This is the lowest of any religious group. 53% are cool/unfavorable. "These negative feelings are noted across academic disciplines and demographic factors."

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Among social science faculty, 57% have a negative view of evangelicals.

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Among faculty in the humanities, 54% have a negative view.

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It is notable that only 11% of college and university faculty are evangelicals; this compares with 33% in the general public.

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89% of evangelical faculty consider religion to be very important in their life. This compares to 53% for Roman Catholics and 38% for non-evangelical Christian faculty memberss.

N = 1,200; margin of error = 3 percentage points.

The report expressed concern about the overall climate toward evangelicals on American campuses. He wrote:

"How does this disapproval affect the intellectual, emotional, and social experiences of those who identify as Evangelicals? As it was for Jews on campus two generations ago, maybe Evangelical Christians do not want to talk openly about their identities and beliefs. The prejudice against them stands out prominently in institutions dedicated to liberalism, tolerance, and academic freedom. Faculty may deny that their feelings about Evangelical Christians affect research and teaching, or that they interact differently with colleagues and students who are Evangelical Christians. But faculty cannot deny, at least according to these data, that they feel very negatively about Evangelicals, especially compared to the tolerance expressed for other religious groups. ..."

"Colleges and universities have some serious soul searching to do about these findings. Faculty may argue that their level of negativity about Evangelical Christians is a political disapproval, not a religious one. This argument is unacceptable, as are the justifications for all prejudices. ... The attitudes of faculty about Evangelicals have not gone unnoticed by Evangelicals themselves. Organizations representing Christian communities have argued that many universities are inhospitable and some are hostile to Evangelical groups on campus." 3

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors and professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, suggests that the poll data does not indicate religious bias. It reflects "a political and cultural resistance..." 4 He believes that the negative feelings towards evangelicals has two causes:

"...the particular kind of Republican Party activism that some evangelicals have engaged in over the years, as well as what faculty perceive as the opposition to scientific objectivity among some evangelicals." 4

William B. Harvey, vice president for diversity and equity at the University of Virginia, said that even if the survey has correctly identified a "latent sentiment" among professors, "I don't know that it is fair to make the leap ... that this is manifested in some bias in the classroom."

In his assignment working on diversity issues at the American Council on Education, he did not come any serious incidents in which a professor discriminated against an evangelical student. He said:

"The campus is a microcosm of the larger society. Of course we have intolerant people. Of course it happens on occasion. But there is no evidence this is a major problem." 4

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Attitudes towards Evangelical Christians by the general population:

bullet2006-APR: CBS News poll: Between APR-06 to 09, pollsters asked 899 randomly selected American adults:

"What is your impression of [the following religion]? As of today, is it very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, very unfavorable, of haven't you heard enough about that to say?" 5

Note that the question relates to a specific religion, and not the followers of that religion.

Religion Favorable Unfavorable Haven't heard enough Unsure
Christian fundamentalist religions 31% 31% 32% 6%
The Mormon religion 20 39 38 3
The Catholic religion 48 37 11 4
Other Christian religions
such as Protestantism
58 12 27 3
The Jewish religion 47 16 33 4
Scientology 8 52 37 3
The religion called Islam 19 45 31 5 6

 

bullet

2007-APR: Institute for Jewish & Community Research poll: G.A. Tobin and Aryeh K. Weinberg, reported in 2007-APR that the percentage of American adults who hold warm/favorable feelings towards persons of a given religion are:
bullet

50% towards Roman Catholics and Jews

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Evangelical Christians, 42%,

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Non-Evangelical Christians, 36%,

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Muslims, 36%,

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Mormons, 35%,

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Buddhists, 34%,

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Persons not practicing any religion, 33%, and

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Atheists, 18%.

They note a curious interplay between Jews and evangelical Christians. Tobin and Weinberg, note that:

"Among the public, while 60% of Evangelicals feel warm/favorable toward Jews, 37% of Jews feel cool/unfavorable toward Evangelicals, including 26% who feel very cold/unfavorable, revealing a bit of a one-sided affinity between the two communities." 6

This may be because a significant percentage of evangelicals support Israel. They also anticipate the war of Armageddon in the near future, ending the world as we know it. As a result of Armageddon, many evangelicals believe that a very small number of Jews will survive -- exactly 144,000. The vast majority will be slaughtered by Jesus and his army of angels in a genocide greater than the Nazi Holocaust. This belief may make some Jews less than supportive of evangelicals.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Frank Newport, "Americans' Views of the Mormon Religion: Most frequent top-of-mind impression of Mormons is polygamy," The Gallup Poll, 2007-MAR-02, at: http://www.galluppoll.com/ This may be a temporary listing.
  2. "Washington Post-ABC News Poll," 2007-FEB-27, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  3. G.A. Tobin & Aryeh K. Weinberg, "Religious beliefs of College Faculty," at: http://www.jewishresearch.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  4. Alan Cooperman, "Is There Disdain For Evangelicals In the Classroom? Survey, Bias Allegation Spur Debate," Washington Post, 2007-MAY-05, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  5. "Religion," Polling Report, at: http://www.pollingreport.com/
  6. Op cit, Tobin, Page 81

Copyright 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-FEB
Latest update: 2007-MAY-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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