Mormon Media Symposium: Perceptions of Mitt Romney within the Mormon community

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A study done on the perceptions of Mitt Romney among members of the LDS church uncovered many opinions gone unheard by Mormon voters since 2008.

Clark Callahan, a BYU professor of intercultural and international communication, and three students conducted the research over the summer. Derek Johanson, a student studying economics, presented their paper “Perceptions of Mitt Romney within the Mormon Community,” on Thursday, Nov. 8, at the Mormon Media Symposium.

To introduce their findings, Johanson said the new categories they used for understanding political perspectives goes beyond peoples’ parties. “People have complex values and concerns that have gone unvoiced until now,” he said.

Since Romney’s involvement in the presidential races, several political polls have researched what members of other popular faiths thought about Romney and the LDS church, but few seemed to focus on members of the church itself. Five months before the 2012 election day, self proclaimed members of the LDS church were asked a series of questions probing their perceptions of the effect of Romney’s candidacy on the church. The findings show four distinct categories among Mormons.

The first and most populated group was called the Primary Mormons, those who fit the perceptions of Mormon culture shown by the media. They believed a Mormon president would be a successful president but may shed a negative light on the church, were hesitant to talk publicly about their faith, believed every Mormon should vote for Romney and assumed that because Romney had been called by the church to be a Stake President that “he couldn’t have been a bad man.”

Group two was called the Sovereign Mormons, or those who actively tried to separate themselves from the stereotypical perception of the church. They highly valued objectivity in voting, excluded their faith, said it is okay for Mormons to be democrats and felt isolated among friends within the church who “pushed” Romney on them.

Group three was called the Aesthetic Mormons, or those concerned about the image of the church among public opinion. They believed Mormons should “vote with their heads and not with their faith,” believed Romney to be a people-pleaser and felt all churches should stay out of politics.

The final group was named the Doubty-zealots. These members understood not all Mormons are conservative, thought it was a positive thing for Mormons to have a candidate but believed Romney was not the “right” one.

Since the 2008 race for presidency, the frequency of Mormons in the news has increased substantially. It became known as “The Mormon Moment” in the last months of this most recent 2012 presidential election.

“Almost any field has been touched by ‘The Mormon Moment,'” Johanson said. “We wanted to know what the Mormon community believes about Romney and his campaign, to address the perception that the Mormon culture is homogeneous, and, if that was not so, wanted to know what the specific values of Mormon culture are.”

Respondents were asked to rate how well Romney met up with their perceptions of Mormon culture. “There are other categories than just the stereotypical perception,” Johanson said of the respondents. “Perception is important across the board but measured differently.”

 

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