In 2014, Mormons were the most Republican religious group in the United States. However, a recent Pew study comparing how voters identify based on their religion, race, and gender shows a political shift among LDS voters.
Although 78 percent of Mormon voters identified as Republican in 2012, the 2016 Pew study found that only 69 percent of Mormon voters identify or "lean" Republican. However, a 9 percent shift isn't as dramatic as it may sound.
Quin Monson, a political science professor at Brigham Young University, told KUER, "This feels like a reversion to where it should be. It spiked up with the candidacy of Mitt Romney, and now it’s sort of coming back to where it was before. And that’s been driven in part by this aversion by some Mormons and some Republicans to Donald Trump, but it also reflects just an ebb back from the high water mark of 2012."
The shift away from Republican is also more prevalent among millennial voters. Among the youth and young adult members of the Church, 36 percent consider themselves Republican and 57 tend to affiliate as Democrat.
Benjamin Knoll, an associate professor of politics at Centre College, observed that voters are less likely to affiliate as Republican or Democrat in general, which may affect the percentage of LDS voters who affiliate as Republican.
Knoll told Religion News, "The fact that Republican identification has been going down over the last two decades among Mormons is not terribly surprising given that this largely matches national trends in partisan identification. Those identifying as Democrats or Republicans have been decreasing while 'Independent' identification has been on the rise, which we see mirrored among Mormons."
Since the Church does not officially endorse political candidates or tell members to vote Republican or Democrat, the shift in political affiliation does not necessarily represent a shift in voter's beliefs and values.
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Although the Pew study marks a sharp decline in LDS Republican voters for this year's election, their shift away from the Republican party has been gradually declining for almost two decades. After Romney increased Republican affiliation amongst Mormons, Trump had the opposite effect, marking a sharper contrast than usual between the two elections.
Whether LDS voters identify as a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, Church leaders encourage members "to play a role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues and voting in elections" (Mormon Newsroom).
This year's presidential election will take place on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.
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