David Campbell & Quin Monson on Mormons & Politics in America
Date: November 9th, 2014
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Are Mormons a “peculiar people,” particularly as it pertains to politics? Two LDS political scientists — David E Campbell of Notre Dame and J Quin Monson of Brigham Young University — join us in our first-ever dual guest appearance to discuss this topic. We examine a variety of research findings recently published in their book Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics, also written with John C Green (who is not a Mormon).
After a bit of personal revelations by our two guests, we jump first into a bit of sociology of religion and explore the unique distinctiveness of the Latter Day Saints. Prof. Monson elaborates on what the authors call the “paradox of Mormonism,” wherein the LDS are a quintessentially American faith, but also “outside” of American culture. We examine whether Mormons can be called a distinct religio-ethnic group, perhaps akin to Jews. Both Dave and Quin share some personal experiences growing up and being educated outside of the Mormon heartland of Utah, and they school Tony in what it means to “speak Mormon.” In respect to this “paradox of Mormonism,” Tony wonders why the LDS remain one of the most devoutly patriotic subgroups in America despite having faced enormous persecution throughout their history.
We then turn to the political identify of Mormons and Tony points out that few, if any, presidential candidates ever make a whistle stop in Utah. Prof. Campbell explains that Mormons are remarkably cohesive in their Republican affiliation (much like African-American Protestants and Jews when it comes to the Democrat Party), but it wasn’t always this way. Dave covers the Mormon partisan re-alignment that has occurred over the past half century or so and in the process we review one of our favorite topics — the God gap, an increasing cross-denominational tendency for those who are deeply religious to prefer the GOP, while secular society has trended Democrat. (See our list of additional podcasts on this topic below.) We also cover a series of specific issues to note that Mormons are not necessarily monolithic in their views and often have political preferences that are a bit at odds with the Republican base, particularly when it comes to immigration. We discuss the reasons for this more pro-immigrant stance and how it might relate to the missionary goals of the LDS. Tony also brings up the issue of school choice vouchers, a GOP-favored policy, and how it went down to a resounding defeat in Utah several years back. Both Quin and Dave offer their explanations.
We follow the discussion on political preferences with an examination of whether or not religious leaders influence the voting behavior of the LDS laity. We talk a bit about the organizational structure of the church. Quin points out that there is virtually no politicking that goes on from the pulpit, but there are numerous conversations in the hallways of the ward (i.e., the LDS version of a parish or congregation). Tony brings up the recent case of Mormon involvement supporting Proposition 8, a California initiative that was designed to reverse a state supreme court ruling and define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. The LDS Church and many of its individual members took a great deal of heat for their support of Proposition 8, and this leads us to a discussion of the efficacy of religious groups becoming closely involved in political causes.
We finish with some reflections on whether or not Mormons have broken the political “glass ceiling” with the recent presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012. Dave brings up some thoughts about how this campaign both affected the perception of Mormons in politics — with Republicans becoming more friendly to the denomination while Democrats became a bit more negative on it — and how Mitt affected Mormonism itself. We close with the two authors giving their personal reflections on what they learned throughout the process of writing their book. Recorded: October 31, 2014.
Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics, by David E Campbell, John C Green, and J Quin Monson.
David E Campbell’s bio at University of Notre Dame’s political science department.
J Quin Monson’s bio at Brigham Young University’s political science department.
American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, by Robert Putnam and David E Campbell.
Lynita Newswander on Mormons in America
Allison Pond on Being a Mormon Missionary
Patrick Mason on Anti-Mormonism and Mitt Romney
Michael McBride on Religious Free-Riding and the Mormon Church
David Smith on Episodic Religious Persecutions
Jeremy Lott on Mormons, Pope Francis, and Ugly Churches
Ken Wald on the Puzzling Politics of American Jews
Corwin Smidt on Religion, Elections and the God Gap
Gerald De Maio on the Electoral Religion Gap
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