RICHMOND, Va. — Traditionally, people in the Mormon faith are one of the most reliable Republican voting groups in the nation, but this year some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seem uncomfortable with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“What we’re seeing is an unusual election where the Republican candidate isn’t the candidate most Mormon voters prefer,” Dr. Matthew Burbank, a political science professor at the University of Utah, said. “From poll results early on, it seemed like many LDS voters were uneasy about him.”
Trump faced a string of defeats in the Republican primaries earlier this year in three states where many Mormon voters live. In Utah, Trump placed third with 14 percent of the vote. He placed second in Idaho with 28 percent, and third in Wyoming with 7.2 percent of the vote.
Polls have shown about a third of Mormon voters have a favorable opinion of Trump, while a fifth favor Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“I would say that [Clinton and Trump] lack some values that could really benefit them,” Richmond Mormon missionary Elder Logan Genduso said. “A lot of politics is attacking others, attacking other candidates. Instead of trying to help.”
There are many reasons why Trump is getting a cool reception from Mormon voters. Trump has had two divorces, often uses offensive language, and has in the past called Mormonism an “alien” religion.
“He comes across as rather brash, which is not something that works well with LDS voters,” Burbank said.
Also Trump’s immigration stance and his statements about Mexicans may have also been off-putting to many Mormon voters, as nearly 5.4 million Mormons live in Mexico.
“His position on immigration, his hardline stance on deporting all immigrants who are here illegally, many Mormons have a problem with,” Burbank said. “At least many Mormons in Utah that follow the LDS church think ‘Yes, illegal immigration is important, but so is family.’ And breaking up families is not something many Mormons agree with.”
Additionally, the LDS church released a statement in response to Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration last year.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in regard to party politics and election campaigns,” the press release said. “However, it is not neutral in relation to religious freedom."
Mormons have a long history with state-sponsored religious discrimination against them, being the target of state-sponsored religious persecution in 1838. In 1879, then-U.S. Secretary of State William M. Evarts even proposed a ban on Mormon immigration to the U.S.
“The church is politically neutral, and always the church encourages members to vote to be active to be in discussions and to stand up for the rights that we believe in,” Richmond Mormon missionary Elder Matthew Kaur said. “We believe that religious freedom is strongly connected with that. We have the freedom to share that, and influence the way we live and the way we vote.”
While Trump holds a lead over Clinton among Mormon voters in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, high profile opposition from leaders like former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have shown that Mormons are less than enthusiastic about the this year’s Republican candidate.
By Jesse Adcock (Special to WTVR.com)
EDITOR’S NOTE: WTVR.com has partnered with the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project at VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. A student from the project reported this story.