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Following the Leader? Mormon Voting on Ballot Propositions

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Why did Utah voters—most of whom are Mormons—vote in favor of repealing Prohibition in 1933, and against a modest relaxation of Utah's liquor laws in 1968? In answering this question, we illuminate some important facets of the political behavior of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We hypothesize that Mormons are likely to “follow their leaders” on political questions when two conditions hold: (1) official endorsement of a position by LDS church leaders; and (2) internal agreement among those leaders. Each is necessary, but neither is sufficient alone. In 1933, only one of these two conditions held; in 1968 both did. Using ecological inference to generate estimates of individual-level behavior of Mormon and non-Mormon voters in Utah, we find that Mormon voters were significantly more likely to vote in accordance with the Mormon Church's official position in 1968 than in 1933. We further test our hypothesis by examining other referenda in states with a large Mormon population. We conclude with a discussion of when and how contemporary Mormon leaders get involved in political issues.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: The University of Notre Dame 2: Brigham Young University

Publication date: 2003-12-01

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