Mormons, immigration, Pew study

~by Michelle

It’s been a week now since the results from the recent “Mormons in America” Pew Forum survey were published. While a majority of Mormons reported being politically conservative (similar to evangelical Americans), the issue of immigration is one where evangelicals and Mormons seem to differ.

As we shared over the weekend, the Deseret News had a five-part series called Mormons in America that explored in more detail several of the key findings of the Pew survey. The article about Mormon attitudes on immigration was, for me, a particularly interesting read. (See more on the topic of immigration in a previous Mormon Women article; this is an issue that is of personal interest to me.)

The Pew survey found that Mormons tend to be more moderate than other religious, politically conservative groups on the issue of immigration. You can read the article for the comparative statistics, but what I found interesting was the discussion of some of the factors that may contribute to the more moderate position reported by Mormons on the topic of immigration. The combination of factors cited included the following:

1) Education level, socioeconomic status, and religious commitment (higher education and socioeconomic status are reported to be connected with higher religious commitment, which all correlate to a more moderate view of immigration).

2) Age — people under age 50 tend to have more favorable attitudes toward immigration, and a higher percentage of Mormons fall into that younger category than they do in the general population

3) Mormon mission experiences have an impact on Mormons and their views on immigration. From the article:

Theresa Martinez, a non-Mormon sociology professor at the University of Utah, emphatically seconds Cox on the outward focus. “I’ve taught over 7,000 students,” she says, “probably about half of them LDS, with a large proportion of those return missionaries, and half of those from Latin American missions.” Her students express strong attachment to the peoples and communities they served, Martinez says. “And after that, you are not the sheltered little Mormon kid, and you understand that life is much bigger than your backyard.”

4) Church leaders giving a “gentle push in [the] direction” of more openness to a more moderate, centrist position on immigration. From the article:

Last year Utah illegal immigration hard-liners were poised to copy Arizona’s stern immigration policies, when centrists—with quiet but clear support from Church leaders—turned tables with widely-noted legislation that will allow some undocumented workers to obtain drivers’ licenses and work. In the fall of 2010, the Church also stated support for the principles of the The Utah Compact , which urges humane and measured solutions at the federal level.