2012 Pew Report:Mormons in America, Part 4 — Attitudes on Immigration

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Mormon attitudes immigration Pew report

The Pew Forum report on Mormons in America released in January 2012 summarized the attitudes of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on immigration. First, the study found (as expected) that Mormons are more conservative than the general public in America (66 percent to 37 percent). However, Mormon beliefs and attitudes on immigration differ from other American conservatives, including those of "white evangelical Christians."

"Asked whether immigrants are a strength or a burden, 59 percent of white evangelicals said they were a burden, while only 41 percent of Mormons felt the same, compared to 44 percent of the general public. The result is surprising given how staunchly conservative Mormons are on nearly every measure. Interestingly, 50 percent of white mainline Protestants and 49 percent of white Catholics also tilt against immigration, though neither group is as uniformly conservative as evangelicals or Mormons on other measures." [1]

Those experts who have been analyzing the Pew reports give several explanations for the differences in attitudes between conservative Evangelical Christians and Mormons. One is that people on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale feel more threatened by immigrants, and Mormons tend to be on a higher socioeconomic level than white Evangelicals. The Pew report seems to validate that idea by showing that the most faithful and active Latter-day Saints are also the best educated and financially successful. This shows up in the reverse: "50 percent of less committed Mormons see immigrants as a burden, against 36 percent of highly committed Mormons."

Other studies show that younger people tend to be more receptive to immigration, and white Evangelical Protestants tend to be older than the Mormon population in America. "Sure enough, Pew finds that 49 percent of Mormons between the ages of 18-49 see immigrants as a strength, while just 39 percent Mormons over 50 say the same." [2] Only 34 percent of the Mormon population in America is over 50 years of age, compared with 41 percent of America's general population.

Pew Mormons in America Immigration

Another influence is the outward focus of Mormons, many of whom have served LDS missions abroad, learning foreign languages and developing inter-cultural fluency as well. "One statistic conveys the impact of this element of Mormon culture: 70 percent of the 33,000 students at BYU are bilingual."

"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."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also urges tolerance and compassion, helping to tone down laws that head toward hard-line handling of immigrant policies. In addition to influencing policies in its own backyard, "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." [3]

Some comments reported in the Deseret News coverage of the Pew Report emphasize the difference between immigration and illegal immigration. There's a difference, and the drag on municipal, state, and federal financial resources is real. Somehow, the workings of the country have to be upheld, while compassion mitigates justice. [4]

*To link to the five-part series about the 2012 Pew report, click here: Mormons in America

*Go to 2012 Pew Report:Mormons in America, Part 5

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