Democrats in elephant country


BYU is one of the few universities where identifying politically as a Democrat or a liberal places a student in the minority category on campus.

In a 2010 Gallup poll, 59 percent of American Mormons said they identified as conservative, 31 percent identified as moderate, and only eight percent identified as liberal. These statistics make Mormonism the most conservative major religion in America.

A 2012 Gallup poll suggested 84 percent of Mormons preferred presidential candidate Mitt Romney to President Barack Obama. Only 13 percent preferred Obama to Romney.

Since American Mormons often lean right politically, it would follow that BYU students would reflect that trend. However, Nicole Pavez, secretary for the BYU Democrats, said that may not be true.

For some Democrats, Utah can feel like hostile territory where their opinions are not welcome. (Illustration by Lizzie Jenkins)
For some Democrats, Utah can feel like hostile territory where their opinions are not welcome. (Illustration by Lizzie Jenkins)

“I find more liberals each day, and it’s not like I look for them; it’s just like you find people similar to you,” Pavez said.

The social media coordinator of the BYU Democrats, Zaida Hill, said she is intrigued by the Democratic Party because its platform aligns well with her social and economic beliefs as a whole.

“I think the inequality of wealth in the United States is a big deal, and I like how the Democratic Party deals with that,” Hill said. “I think we should tax the rich more.”

Hill said her minority political beliefs can make it difficult to attend a school where culture, politics and religion often overlap.

“People will make rude comments without even realizing that they’re hurting someone’s feelings because they think everyone is conservative and like them,” Hill said. “I have an Obama sticker on my laptop and even had somebody come up to me and told me I’m going to hell.”

Despite this incident, Hill said most students are “understanding, welcoming and open to new ideas.”

The BYU Democrats event coordinator, Hannah Wheelwright, said liberal politics are about new ideas in more than just common social issues.

“Liberal politics is about economics, and it’s about international affairs,” Wheelwright said. “Liberal politics is not just gay marriage and abortion. And I get very, very tired when someone finds out I am a liberal, and their first question is, ‘Are you pro-choice, and do you support gay marriage?'”

Wheelwright said it is frustrating when people focus on those specific issues when there is so much more to her liberal ideology.

Pavez said she recognizes the LDS Church has spoken on issues regarding the family but feels there are other issues to consider as well.

Hill said being a Democrat does not mean one is a less valiant member of the church.

“You can be a good member of the church and also be liberal,” Zaida said. “I would want them to remember that we’re all children of our Heavenly Father, and he does know our intentions. I don’t think that when I’m at the judgment seat he is going to punish me for being liberal.”

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