Poll: Americans don’t know much about Latter-day Saints

The media spotlight focused on Latter-day Saints on television and social media may seem like a continuation of the “Mormon moment,” but a new nationwide poll shows that most Americans still know very little about know them and their faith.

“People’s ignorance of the Church was shocking,” said Josh Coates, executive director of the BH Roberts Foundation, which published the study and is best known for its Mormonr brand. “I mean, two-thirds of the respondents either agreed that we practice polygamy or they weren’t sure we practice polygamy.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints outlawed polygamy in 1890.

“Mormon Moment II” might perpetuate the misunderstanding. As people watch shows like Netflix’s “Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey,” Coates said many viewers walk away without a clear understanding, even as producers make the distinction between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a separate, fundamentalist group to explain .

Coates said Momentive’s poll of 1,157 Americans is the first of many. The BH Roberts Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports education and research related to Latter-day Saints, plans to conduct the survey annually or biennially to track American views of the Church.

“The most important thing to me is that the more you know about the Latter-day Saints, the more you will like them. The less you know about Latter-day Saints, the less you like them,” Coates said.

What do people know about Latter-day Saints?

The problem for Latter-day Saints, Coates said, is that the other big finding from the survey is that most people don’t know much about Latter-day Saints. For example, 84% received a 5 on a short quiz about Latter-day Saint beliefs and practices.

Without knowing much about the church or its members, it is understandable that about 50% said they do not have strong feelings for the church or its members.


“Most people actually don’t like us or don’t like us, they don’t even really think about us much,” he said. “They don’t know much about us and are neutral about Latter-day Saints, both the Church and the people.”

Where do people get information about Latter-day Saints?

Coates was also surprised that 46% of Americans had never spoken with a Latter-day Saint missionary and that about half of those surveyed said they had no friends or family who are members of the Church.

Utahns may think everyone knows a Latter-day Saint, Coates said, but half of Americans say they don’t have a Latter-day Saint friend or family member.

“There’s a whole wide world out there and people don’t know us,” he said.

The spate of movies and shows and social media accounts about the Church competes with family and friends for the sources of most information about the Church, according to the survey.

In the past two years, streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu have released several shows about Latter-day Saints or Church-related groups, including Murder Among the Mormons, Under the Banner of Heaven, Sins of Our Mother, and more. . and more.

The interest has led some to compare this to the so-called Mormon moment of 2007-2012, when interest in Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns and other issues catapulted the Church of Jesus Christ into the limelight.

That moment didn’t necessarily change how Americans viewed Latter-day Saints. Gallup polls early in Romney’s second campaign found that about one in five Americans would not vote for their party’s nominee if the nominee were a Latter-day Saint. That number was virtually the same as it was in 1968, when Romney’s father, George, ran for president.

“A lot of where people learn about us is from family and friends, but also on TV and movies,” Coates said. “Especially these days, there’s been so much media out there about Latter-day Saints in the last year or two, and most of it hasn’t been flattering, and that’s one of the main ways people find out about us. That’s pretty unfortunate, I think. But that won’t change. We seem to be a really interesting topic.”


How much (or how little) do people know about Latter-day Saints?

The Church Beliefs and Practices quiz included polygamy. Missing two or more answers counted as a failing score. Here’s the quiz:

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) …

  • Can live with more than one wife (wrong)
  • Can’t eat chocolate (wrong)
  • Can’t drink alcohol (true)
  • Can’t have blood transfusions (false)
  • Believe Christ is the Son of God (True)

The poll found that those who said they liked Latter-day Saints did three times better on the quiz than those who said they disliked Church members. Those with a college degree performed 78% better than those without a college degree.


Coates said it’s important to understand what people know about Latter-day Saints at a time when many people are turning away from religion. Interestingly, the survey found an association between religiosity and feelings toward members of the Church of Jesus Christ.

“The more religious you are, the kinder you are to Latter-day Saints,” Coates said.

“Nowadays it seems like we have a lot of things in common because faith is rapidly declining in America,” he said. “The fastest growing belief system is the non-belief system. In fact, several polls show that approximately one in three Americans no longer belongs to any religion.”

A Pew Research Center study released in September found that 30% of the US population are people with no religious affiliation, sometimes referred to as religious “nones.”

Coates said his team compared the survey results to other survey results, including the University of Chicago’s GSS survey, which has been conducted roughly every two years since 1972.

The GSS points out that the major Protestant churches have lost about a third of the 20 million members they had about 20 years ago, Coates said.

“This is unbelievable, 7 million members just disappear. It’s just an extreme slump,” he said. “Latter-day Saints in the United States have grown, although in absolute terms the rate of growth has been declining. In the last 10 years, the (Church of Jesus Christ) in the United States has grown by 530,000 members.”

Which religious groups are friendliest to Latter-day Saints?

The religious group friendliest to Latter-day Saints, according to the poll, were Muslims, possibly because their beliefs align with those of Latter-day Saints in many ways, from abstinence from alcohol to the importance of family to wearing sacred clothing, Coates said.

Coates established the BH Roberts Foundation to build a comprehensive database of primary source records on complex faith-related issues. The foundation is completely independent and is funded by Coates and other private donations. Coates said the foundation will share the survey with the church.

“I’ve always been fascinated by collecting sociological data about the Church and about Latter-day Saints,” he said. “And BHR has the means, the motive and the opportunity to get more data on the subject.”

A second, Utah-specific survey will follow. Her goal is to learn what nonmembers of the country think of church members. It will also seek additional information about both Latter-day Saints in Utah and former members of the Church.

What is Mormon?

The Mormonr brand is aimed at 20-40 year olds. His website posts questions and answers on various Church-related topics. The site attracts 30,000 visitors a month, Coates said, 77% of whom say they are Latter-day Saints.

Mormonr’s Twitter account has 10,800 followers and is known for its memes.

The white paper for the 2022 BH Roberts National Latter-day Saint Survey will be available at bhroberts.org/2022BHRNLDSS.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *