Mormon America: A Political Profile

Not surprisingly, the turmoil of the 1960s turned off Mormon America in droves. Hubert Humphrey in 1968 collapsed to just 29%, with 63% of Mormons voting for Republican Richard Nixon. Since then, the Mormon vote has gone Republican by ratios ranging from 2-1 for Gerald Ford in 1976 to an all-time record 6-1 for George W. Bush in 2004. Utah was the most Republican state in the nation in 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1996, and 2004. Mormons almost invariably rank among the top three groups in supporting Republican presidential candidates, along with Cubans in Miami, and wealthy white Southerners.

At the local level, LDS elders have preferred to be bipartisan, and until the mid-1970s Utah often had one U.S. senator from each party. Orrin Hatch’s ouster of veteran Democratic Senator Frank Moss in 1976 symbolized the end of that pattern. Utah hasn’t elected a Democratic senator since 1970.

Barack Obama actually scored gains with Mormons; he boosted the Democratic vote by five points -- from 14% to 19%.

In the Nevada caucuses, entrance polls showed that Romney won 91% of his co-religionists. If he is the GOP nominee, expect him to break all records for Mormon support. Though if Romney doesn’t make the GOP ticket, don’t expect much of an opening for Obama. Due to their fiscal and social conservatism, Mormons are likely to remain part of the Republican base for many years.

What impact, if any, would Romney’s faith have on a potential Romney administration? Probably little: Romney’s pro-business leanings are in the Mormon mainstream, but are also standard Republican views. While Romney’s social views are traditional, he has never shown much interest in imposing them on anybody else. He has supported gay rights in Massachusetts. He has repeatedly said that he believes in the separation of church and state. As Massachusetts governor, he claims he was practical by signing some liberal legislation that the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature sent him, though he of course spearheaded Romneycare. He certainly appears to lead a virtuous private life, but Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith is likely to keep a low profile as president.