The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey is a major research project of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Based on interviews with more than 35,000 American adults, it details the religious makeup, religious beliefs and practices as well as social and political attitudes of the American public.
A new analysis of the Landscape Survey data reveals that as a group Mormons are among the most devout and conservative religious people in the country. The Mormon community is also internally diverse, with differences in religious commitment, educational attainment, regions of the country where Mormons reside, and between lifelong Mormons and converts to the faith. The report explores Mormons’ unique place in the American religious landscape and deals with demographic characteristics, religious beliefs and practices, and social and political views.
Following are some of the report’s key findings:
- Mormons make up 1.7% of the American adult population, a proportion that is comparable in size to the U.S. Jewish population.
- The Mormon population in the U.S. is heavily concentrated in the West (76%). In fact, roughly one-third of all American Mormons (35%) live in Utah, the state founded by its early leaders. An additional 13% live in California while 7% reside in Idaho, 5% in Nevada and 4% each in Oregon and Arizona.
- Mormons make up 58% of Utah’s population.
- As a group, Mormons are among the most devout and conservative religious people in the country.
- Mormons tend to be slightly younger than the general population. Two-thirds (66%) are under age 50, compared with 59% of the public as a whole.
- A majority of Mormons are women (56%), although women make up more than half of other major Christian traditions as well.
- Nearly three-quarters of Mormons (71%) are married, compared with 54% among the general population.
- Mormons (83%) and Hindus (90%) are the most likely of all the major religious traditions to be married to someone of the same faith.
- Nearly nine-in-ten Mormons in the U.S. (86%) are white, compared with 71% of the general population. Just 3% of US Mormons are African-American and 7% are Latino.
- Mormons are significantly more likely than the population overall to have some college education. 61% have at least some college education, compared with half of the overall population. However, the proportion of Mormons who graduate from college (18%) or receive postgraduate education (10%) is similar to the population as a whole (16% and 11%, respectively).
- US converts to the Church tend to be older than lifelong Mormons. 48% are over age 50, compared with 29% lifelong members. Converts also tend to be less educated than nonconverts (16% did not graduate from high school, compared with just 6% of lifelong members) and they earn decidedly lower incomes (40% make less than $30,000 a year, compared with 21% among nonconverts).
- US converts are more likely than lifelong members to come from minority racial and ethnic groups. One-in-ten converts to Mormonism are black. An additional one-in-ten are Hispanic. Just 72% are white; by contrast, 91% of lifelong Mormons are white.
- Converts also are less likely than lifelong members to be married (64% vs. 74%)
- Mormons are remarkably observant in their religious practices, with three-quarters attending church and reading Scripture outside of services at least once a week and more than eight-in-ten praying daily.
A more detailed description of the results was provided by Kent Larsen in the Times and Seasons web log: What I Found Interesting and Unusual in the Pew Report. This very readable article summarizes the information in three categories: Demographics, Religious Belief and Practices, and Social and Political Views.
Larry Richman at the LDS Media Talk web site observes that studies like the Landscape Survey are useful to Latter-day Saints, since a better understanding of the Church and how others view it can help as they strive to make their religion understandable to others.