The Deseret News called for Donald Trump’s resignation in an editorial on Oct. 8, 2016. The paper felt “a duty to speak clearly on issues that affect the well-being and morals of the nation.”
Many people in Utah thought this editorial would sway Utah voters’ minds, but Donald Trump pulled through and obtained 46.3 percent of the vote in Utah; he received 51.5 percent of the vote in Utah County. Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin offered a conservative alternative to Donald Trump; he received 20.9 percent of the votes in Utah (tailing behind Hillary Clinton by 6.8 percent) and 29.5 percent of the votes in Utah County (ahead of Hillary Clinton by 15.6 percent).
Though Utah votes ultimately reflected the win of President-elect Trump, many students and Utahns — even ones who voted for Trump — were shocked by the results.
BYU political science professor Adam Dynes teaches a class on core principles of American politics. Dynes said a lot of his students were surprised and asked concerned questions about the nation’s future.
“We’ve looked at the polling and how it showed that Clinton had a lead and she had — in a lot of the polling — what looked like a decent lead in several of these key states which she lost,” Dynes said. “So I think a lot of them (students) are surprised.”
Dynes said it was perhaps surprising to so many to have “someone like Donald Trump elected as president.” And he’s right: conversations on morals and character of presidential candidates were not absent from the campaign trail.
According to Utah Exit Poll data, Utahns didn’t agree with the morals of either Trump or Clinton. Clinton was ahead of Trump in all these percentages except for being considered honest and trustworthy, and yet Trump pulled ahead in Utah.
Respects your values: 33 percent
Respects Utahn’s values: 29 percent
Is honest and trustworthy: 18 percent
Is a role model for youth: 30 percent
Is a person you consider to be moral: 24 percent
Respects your values: 30 percent
Respects Utahn’s values: 29 percent
Is honest and trustworthy: 24 percent
Is a role model for youth: 14 percent
Is a person you consider to be moral: 17 percent
There have been different speculations for why, but many believe it came down to Trump’s conservative principles and the appointing of new Supreme Court justices. Many Utahns have a strong Republican partisan identity.
“Partisanship is a powerful influence and people have strong identities with their party and it kind of takes on a team — kind of a tribal mentality or teamsmanship — and so you root for your team even when they’re not doing that great; in this case, with a candidate who’s kind of unpopular,” Dynes said. “So partisanship is powerful. It also affects your perspective on how you evaluate policy and candidates.”
Dynes believes some people may’ve voted for Trump, even if they thought he wasn’t as moral as Clinton, because of policies they’re passionate about and the chance he’ll nominate supreme court justices they like.
Dynes said he believes the editorial from the Deseret News didn’t sway more voters’ minds because it wasn’t seen as coming from the LDS Church. Though many Utahns voted for Trump, Dynes said the editorial probably did have an impact — after all, more than half of Utah didn’t vote for him.
Outside of Utah, Mormons didn’t seem to be too affected by the editorial. Valerie Hudson was a political science professor at BYU for 24 years and currently teaches at Texas A&M University.
In Texas, Hudson didn’t hear discussions of the editorial. Of bigger impact was Julie Beck’s prayer at a Trump rally.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement on Wednesday, Nov. 9 following the announcement of Donald Trump as president-elect; the statement encouraged members to pray for President-elect Donald Trump and to be civically engaged.
“We invite Americans everywhere, whatever their political persuasion, to join us in praying for the president-elect, for his new administration and for elected leaders across the nation and the world. Praying for those in public office is a long tradition among Latter-day Saints. The men and women who lead our nations and communities need our prayers as they govern in these difficult and turbulent times.”
The church’s statement was carefully encouraging and marked an increase in the church’s, albeit neutral, presence in politics. The church also released a strong statement on religious liberty in Dec. 2015. The statement didn’t name presidential candidate Donald Trump, but emphasized acceptance of other religions. This was released during Trump’s talks of banning all Muslims from entering the U.S.
“I think that the church will make its position on religious liberty clear to Donald Trump, Mike Pence and others in the new administration, and I think the church will get a serious hearing when it does,” Hudson said in an email.