One of the most significant discussions of religion and politics during 2012, was the dynamics of the US presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, and his religious affiliation to Mormonism. While the presidential race was watched globally, within the United Kingdom, it remained mainstream news throughout and Romney received close examination of his history, religion and policies. For many in the United Kingdom, they knew little of him except him being a Mormon, and a rich one at that, which seemingly concentrated their curiosity. However, during a goodwill visit to London, he successfully undermined his own standing with both the British political establishment and public at large by making ill-informed statements and swimming in blind ignorance. Dr Victoria Honeyman, a British politics lecturer at the University of Leeds, when asked of his impact on the British she answered:
I’m not sure he is universally disliked, but he isn’t helping himself in Britain. His comments about the Olympics were inaccurate and really struck at the pride of the British people, not a popular move. He is also somewhat gaffe-prone, making the British public and media wonder whether he is like Bush — that is not necessarily a positive thing for Romney.
Certainly, for the British public, Romney became less of a political significance but increasingly a figure for denominational ridicule. There was increased media attention on the LDS Church in Britain, much of which was either incorrect or nuanced with mockery. In fact mainstream media (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky satellite channels, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, and Catholic Herald among others) included comment, opinion and documentaries that began to shape the Mormon as, a misled, confused, and strange but devoted sect. The thinly veiled BBC documentary ‘The Mormon Candidate’ in March 2012, by the equally thinly veiled investigative reporter John Sweeney, portrayed Mormonism as dark, secretive (with the moody music) and brainwashing outfit. The arrival of the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon a year later, did little to elucidate the character or nature of what a Mormon is. This deluge directly impacted on British and Irish Mormons, on the one hand it provided more opportunities for adherents to discuss their faith, and on the other more exchanges to defend from perceived inaccuracies. Seemingly, little effort was used to identify the typical rank and file Mormon. In fact, no serious study has been attempted to identify the typical British and Irish Mormon, their education, occupation, social and devotional relationships. From a demographic study that I am now completing I intended to answer the question, ‘Who are these Mormons?’ and what social context are these adherents drawn from. I have written this article for Juvenile Instructor as a snapshot of the research as the full study is being written up now. But a little information on the survey might provide some insight and cultural context.
In total, there was over 1,000 responses, however, due to faulty or invalid information the final figure was 814 respondents. The age range was 16+ to 94! The diversity was astonishing as to background and demographic backgrounds. The invitation was distributed through a number of channels including targeting UK/Irish Mormon online groups, through word of mouth, direct invitation and self-referrals. The ‘open’ period for the survey was for six months (September 2012 – February 2013), the majority of respondents completed the survey online and on average took 28 minutes to complete. Those who completed the survey offline (phone/paper/interview) were added to the online system expeditiously. An online data intelligence firm (Qualtrics.com) hosted the survey, as well as providing initial statistics such as time taken to complete, ensuring responses within set criteria, simple charts and tabular data. This data was further examined in SPSS (IBM Statistics) in order to validate the initial results. The sampling error for this survey can only be estimated due to its approaches of collection and recording, however, a conservative estimate is +/- 2% at the 96% confidence level.
Each survey contained 33 questions. Some questions required multiple responses. Therefore a fully completed response would return 91 pieces of information, including gender, age, location etc. The online survey was chosen as the main medium as the UK has over 85 per cent of internet penetration of the population as a whole.
The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is a diverse array of cultures and a complex system of religious orthodoxy and history, significantly on account of the religious reformations during 1530s and beyond. As a consequence of subsequent industrial developments, empire building and civil wars these Western Europeans are a proud and dynamic population. It is within this landscape that Mormonism is embedded. Mormonism, however, is NOT statistically significant among the UK/Irish population with less than 1 per cent (LDS Church report 189,104 (.3%) or one in 334), claiming affiliation with its faith, however, within that group there are commonalities with the larger population. Using the British Social Attitudes Survey and National Census information as a general guide to population, the comparisons will be fully drawn up in the published report, however, the following summary of statistics can be shown:
- One in three respondents (36%) are life-long members and remain affiliated to the Church, similarly converts aged 9+ remain affiliated (30%) with nearly two-thirds (58.6%) claiming membership over 20 years.
- The gender breakdown of respondents are Female (45%) and Male (55%).
- The greatest proportion of respondents, nearly one in four are aged between 30 and 40 years old.
- Just under (45%) of respondents had completed a university degree, while only (39%) said their fathers had, and (24%) of mothers had.
- In terms of main income earner or ‘breadwinner’, one in five respondents (19%) answered that the main ‘breadwinner’ (according to Standard Occupational Classification) was among Managers or Senior Decision Makers, and (18%) in the professional occupations (Teachers, Lecturers, Accountants, Solicitors, Medicine, Academics etc.). (17%) also reported that the main ‘breadwinner’ was employed in the Administrative or Office category with over (85%) of ‘breadwinners’ being male.
- While growing up one in three (36%) respondents reported that both parents were active in the LDS Church and one in five (20%) had one parent affiliated with the Church.
- On average nearly one in three (29%) had three children, (21%) had two children, and nearly one in five (18%) had no children. (17%) of the respondents had four children, but only (4%) had five or more children.
- With regards to political affiliation, one in three (36%) were affiliated with or voted with the Conservative Party at the last national election (2010) reflecting the national rate, but only (19%) voted Labour (UK nationally 29%), (15%) voted for UK’s third main party, Liberal Democrats (UK nationally 23%). Interestingly, the following were higher than the national average, Independents (6.3%), Floating Voter (6%), and United Kingdom Independence Party (5%) as compared to the national average of (1%), not reported, (3%), respectively. A number of respondents said that they had voted for smaller, regional, or diversity parties such as Democratic Unionist Party, Green, Social Democratic Labour Party, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein each represented under (3%). It should be noted that there were 758 responses as 56 of the 814 (7%) either did not vote, refused a response or were a non-British/Irish nationals.
- The church has an active seminaries and institute programme within the UK, with (28%) completing only one or two year’s seminary, and a further (58%) completed three or more. Of those who were able to do so, only (13%) completed no years. Of those surveyed, less than one in three (29%) completed one or two years, with an increasing figure of (27%) completing three years or more. Nearly (45%) have had no institute, for a wide array of reasons.
There is of course far more within the study, including religiosity, marriage, families, so and so forth. As I said at the off this is simply a snapshot and I welcome any comments or formative feedback, or obvious mistakes.
A full list of the questions can be found at:
 Palash Ghosh, ‘Across the Pond: How the British View the Obama-Romney Race’, International Business Times, 25 October, 2012. An online version can be found at [http://www.ibtimes.com/across-pond-how-british-view-obama-romney-race-853288] Last Accessed 1 June 2013.