2 BYU studies conflict over influence of Mormon church in shaping immigration views

A pair of recent Brigham Young University studies paint a conflicting picture about how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has influenced Utah's immigration debate.

One study suggests church members softened their views on immigration reform after the LDS Church released a statement in November calling on legislators to keep families together and remember immigrants economic contributions. The other indicates that, as of early April, members were still confused about the church's viewpoint on immigration reform and tended to interpret the church's opinion through the lens of previously established attitudes.

"There are institutions and political figures in any environment that have influence of public opinion," said Quin Monson, associate director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at BYU. "In Utah, that's as true for the LDS Church and its members as it is for influential Republican leaders and Republican voters."

For his report, which was published this month on utahdatapoints.com, Monson analyzed data from voter polls in October 2010 and January 2011. In November, a group of religious, political and business leaders got together and wrote the Utah Compact, a document that called for a "humane" approach to immigration reform that would keep families together and recognize immigrant contributions to the economy. Shortly afterward, the LDS Church issued a statement of support.

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