For decades, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been a reliably Republican voting bloc. This election, significant Latter-day Saint populations in two battleground states — Arizona and Nevada — could help decide who wins in November.

The problem? Many Latter-day Saints don’t seem to love any of the options.

“I think that there is no group of voters more dissatisfied with their choices than LDS folks,” said Daniel Cox, director of the Survey Center on American Life at the American Enterprise Institute.

A new survey conducted by Cox’s center suggests that Latter-day Saints are disappointed by the two leading candidates and disenfranchised from the two major parties. The survey’s sample of 6,000 U.S. adults contains a modest sample of 119 Latter-day Saints — too small to claim it represents all U.S. Latter-day Saints, but significant enough to recognize patterns. The Latter-day Saint sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 9.3 percentage points.

“For most of religious groups, even though we don’t weight on religion, we have a pretty good sense that these folks are representative of the broader population,” Cox explained. “When I look at this data, I think the overall picture it paints is really consistent (with other data on Latter-day Saint voters).”

The data reflects a group that is both deeply dissatisfied politically yet highly engaged. A majority of Latter-day Saints in the sample (56%) say this year’s election is more important than most other elections in their lifetime, and over three-fourths say they “always” or “almost always” vote in presidential races.

Whether Latter-day Saints turn out, especially in Arizona and Nevada, could determine the result of the presidential race. While the Latter-day Saint share of the population in both states has decreased in recent decades, members of the church still make up a sizable chunk: More than 440,000 Latter-day Saints live in Arizona, a state President Joe Biden won in 2020 by less than 11,000 votes; in Nevada, where over 180,000 Latter-day Saints reside, Biden won in 2020 by about 33,000 votes.

But when presented with this year’s major-party candidates — Biden and former President Donald Trump — some Latter-day Saints offer a collective shrug. A majority of Latter-day Saints (54%) say they have an unfavorable view of Trump, down from 60% in AEI’s survey a year ago. Biden fares even worse: only 15% of Latter-day Saints say they view the president favorably, while 82% view him unfavorably.

Accordingly, when asked to choose between Biden and Trump, more Latter-day Saints side with the former president. When asked who they would support if a Biden-Trump election were held today, 49% of Latter-day Saints said they’d vote for Trump, while 17% said they would support Biden. A third of Latter-day Saints were either undecided or said they would support a different candidate.

That a Republican nominee for president is not gaining majority support from Latter-day Saints is significant, says David Campbell, director of the Notre Dame Democracy Initiative.

“This is a strongly Republican group,” Campbell said. “They should be strongly behind Trump, but they’re not.”

Latter-day Saints are “caught in between,” Campbell said: “They feel like they don’t have a home right now in American politics.”

A voting sign points voters in the right direction to drop off ballots in Phoenix, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. This election, significant Latter-day Saint populations in two battleground states — Arizona and Nevada — could help decide who wins in November. | Ross D. Franklin

‘Neither political party represents my views’

This moment for Latter-day Saint voters is similar to what American Catholics have experienced for some time, Campbell said.

“Many Catholics have a difficult time deciding between the Democrats and the Republicans, because if they are believing Catholics, there are some of their beliefs that line up better with the Democratic Party and others that line up better with the Republican Party.”

For decades, Latter-day Saints have largely voted in lockstep with the Republican Party. In Utah, where the Church of Jesus Christ is headquartered and a majority of the population identifies as Latter-day Saint, a Democrat presidential nominee has not won since 1964.

“At least since roughly the late 1960s, most LDS folks have thought that their beliefs lined up with the Republican Party,” Campbell explained. ”What you see today is a much greater ambivalence among LDS voters, so that they don’t necessarily think that all their views line up with the Republican Party. But unlike the Catholics, they don’t necessarily see the Democrats as the alternative.”

That has left many Latter-day Saints in political limbo. When asked if they agree that “neither party represents my views anymore,” Latter-day Saints answered affirmatively more than any other religious group surveyed. One-fourth of Latter-day Saints said they “completely agree” with the statement, and another 46% percent said they “somewhat agree.”

Immigration is an issue that neither party sufficiently addresses for Latter-day Saints, said Kelsey Eyre Hammond, a program coordinator at AEI’s Survey Center on American Life. On many social issues, like gay marriage and abortion, Latter-day Saints often poll closely with white evangelical Protestants. But on immigration, they show a drastic difference.

“When you see apathy toward both candidates and neither one is posing a solution for an issue that a lot of Latter-day Saints seem to care about, that’s something to consider,” Eyre Hammond said.

When asked if they believe that immigrants coming to the U.S. today burden local communities by using more than their share of social services, Latter-day Saints were much less likely than white evangelical Protestants, white mainline Protestants and white Catholics to answer affirmatively. The same was true when asked if they agree with the following statement: “To stop illegal immigration, we need to make it more dangerous for migrants to cross the border, even if it means some of them might die.” Only 6% of Latter-day Saints said they agreed, the lowest of any faith group surveyed.

Sustaining the law

Last summer, the Church of Jesus Christ reiterated its policy on political neutrality and encouraged its members to participate in the civic process. The policy emphasized the church’s 12th Article of Faith, that encourages members to be “subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

Latter-day Saints update and expand policy on political neutrality and participation

In the AEI survey, Latter-day Saint respondents expressed support for this idea. When asked if they agree that America needs “a strong leader who is willing to break the rules,” only 20% of Latter-day Saints agreed — the lowest of any faith group surveyed.

“This is a group that is very small-C ‘conservative,’” said Campbell. “This is a group that has a genuine love of America as a concept and as a nation. … If you believe the Constitution is divinely inspired, you probably wouldn’t support a strong leader willing to break the rules, if you mean the rules as set up by the Constitution.”


That love for America’s institutions, combined with their general conservatism, make Latter-day Saints comparatively hesitant to support wholesale restructurings of the U.S. political or economic infrastructure. A populist revival is becoming increasingly popular in America: in a New York Times/Siena College poll of swing-state voters last month, a majority of respondents (69%) said that the U.S.’ political and economic systems need major changes or need to be torn down entirely.

The AEI survey asked a similar question, with a comparative result: 65% of respondents say the U.S. political and economic systems are “so corrupt” that they need to be “torn down and completely rebuilt.”

A minority of Latter-day Saints (48%) agree with that statement, lower than any other religious group but Jews (46%).

“I attribute that to their significant social capital and institutional trust,” Cox, the survey’s director, said. “Those things are tightly correlated.”

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