Posted on Leave a comment

Comparing Mormons by Generations (Part 3 of 6)

Do young and old Mormons feel the same about Church teachings and culture?  How similar or different are they?  Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Ben Knoll discuss the results of their recent survey of Mormon attitudes and we’ll learn how similar or different we are based on age.  What are differences in Mormons by Generations?

Benjamin:  And so oftentimes in the book, we combined Baby Boomers and Silent Generation into a single category, because they tended to look similar on a lot of things. Whereas Gen Xers and Millennials tended to look similar on a lot of things. The breakdown seems to be between the Baby Boomer and Gen X generation. The trends that the Millennials show were often continuations of things that started or became more pronounced in the Gen X generation, which I thought was really interesting.

GT:  All right, so how are the Gen Xers and the Millennials similar? I think Millennials are even more different, right? How are they more different?

Jana:  Well, they are not quite as politically conservative. They are not flaming liberals by any stroke of the imagination. They’re still Mormons. And so, they’re more conservative than other people their age, but they are less conservative than older Latter-day Saints, politically. And I think in terms of their religiosity, they are, again, in between. So, Millennials as a whole in the nation are the generation that we’re seeing to be most likely to disaffiliate of any generation that we’ve been tracking, in American history. But for Millennial Mormons, yes, they are more likely to disaffiliate than their older counterparts, but less likely to do so than other Millennials. So just think of them as kind of in the middle of these two things. But they’re more supportive of LGBT rights, not as supportive as other Millennials.

We also talked about Millennials’s attitudes about LGBT and the Church, and even referenced Greg Prince’s recent book, Gay Rights and the Mormon Church.

GT:  Yeah, he thought that they would double down for about 15 years. So, it was definitely surprising. I asked Greg, a little bit about how many people left the church? He said, in the first year 60,000 people, which is just…..

Jana:  He and I talked about this as well, and we’re not finding that kind of evidence.

GT:  Oh, really?

Jana:  No.

Benjamin:  Well, that’s one that we’re going to have to take a little bit further look at. So, this happened, it was in 2015?

GT:  November.

Benjamin:  Right. And our survey was literally, just the year afterwards, and so for people to say that they’re former Mormons in here, that would have been only a year for that to have happened. There just weren’t that many people in the survey that we saw identifying as a former Mormon, who had left just in that 12 months before the survey was conducted from when the event first happened there. So, it’s difficult for us to be able to definitively put a number on that one way or another.

GT:  Well, I guess I do have another question. If you look at 60,000 divided by 15 million, that’s a fraction of a percent, right? And how big was your survey of Mormons?

Jana:  We had 1156 currently identified and 540 former Mormons.

GT:  So would your survey even be large enough to ascertain?  I mean, 60,000 sounds like a big number. But, in my statistics class, I always say rates are much better than counts. So, as far as a rate that would be a tiny fraction. Would you even be able to notice that in a survey of 1100 people?

Jana:  Matt Martinich, who is much more advanced on church statistics than just about anybody else, would say no. That’s not enough to move the needle, as he would put it.

What are your thoughts about shifting generational attitudes in the Church?  Is the exodus following the November 2015 Gay Policy a big number, or just a blip?

Check out our conversation….

Are Millennials’ attitudes changing the Church?

Don’t miss our other conversations with Jana and Ben!

297: Surprising Mormon Responses

296: How to Randomly Sample Mormons

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Surprising Mormon Responses (Part 2 of 6)

Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Ben Knoll surveyed Mormons to find out their attitudes about church teachings and practices.  What were some of the surprising Mormon responses?  Do people really adhere to the Word of Wisdom, which forbids coffee, alcohol, and tobacco?

Jana:  There were several big surprises, one of which was how many current Mormons, apparently, especially younger ones are drinking coffee. Ben actually emailed me that day when we were both analyzing data separately. He’s said, “Have you seen this?” So that was interesting. Basically, it was four out of 10.

GT:  And these are not just everyday Mormons, but these are active, temple going Mormons, right?

Jana:  Sort of, when you tease that out by age, it’s very interesting what happens because for older Mormons who said that they had coffee, for example, in the last six months, it’s primarily people who are less active in the church and don’t hold a temple recommend. But for younger Mormons, there was some overlap in those categories. Even people who said that they were very active, or who did hold a temple recommend, sometimes apparently are drinking coffee or alcohol.

Among other surprises were that there are more single men, than single women in the church!

Jana:  Another thing that surprised me, completely unrelated, is that I think many people in the Mormon experience, have the understanding that single women in the church are outnumbering single men by a factor of two, or even a factor of three. And actually, statistically, single men in the church have a slight edge over single women. And I looked at that, and I thought that is very surprising.

GT:  There are more single men than single women?

Jana:  Proportionally, which, I know, it sounds very surprising. So…

GT:  Well, in a way it doesn’t because the men get hammered pretty hard on, “Hey, go get married.”

Jana:  Well, that may be true. I cannot ascertain causation simply from that. But what’s interesting though, is that nationally that’s the case that there are fewer men proportionally who have married than women who have married at some point in their lives. So, Mormons are not actually that different than what’s going on nationally. Then looking at the previous work that’s been done on Mormons, single men outnumber single women in the Pew study, also in the 2016, PRRI study about religion in America. So, ours is the third national study in which single men have the slight edge over single women in Mormonism. And you would never guess that, just sitting in a young single adult fireside, for example. But statistically, that does appear to be the case. What do you think?

Benjamin:  I’d want to follow up with that, and I think we did at some point, I just don’t remember off the top my head of those who attend weekly. What was the breakdown with those ones? That would be fun to look at.

Jana:  Right, well, and I find that very interesting, too. Because there is a difference, right? There is a difference. But we found in terms of breaking down orthodoxy by marital category, that single men had the lowest levels of belief and adherent behavior of any marital category. So single women, or married men, married women.

Benjamin:  That may explain why we see more women at the firesides.

We also discussed an interesting concept of self-identification.

Jana:  There is the general question that’s asked on a lot of surveys about religion. “Are you a person who comes more than once a week, weekly, couple times a month,” etc.? In that we had a very nice presentation from Mormons of all ages. When we asked though, in the Sabbath question, “Have you been to church in the last 30 days?” For Millennials, and particularly for younger men, that gap between the people who say that they attend weekly, and who actually have been in the last 30 days was wider. So that’s interesting.

Benjamin:  And that’s not uncommon with survey research, either. People tend to over report behaviors that people see is desirable….Sociology and religion research has shown the similar things with, for example, religious service attendance. People don’t want to say to the person at the end of the other end of the phone, “Nah, I don’t go all that often,” right? Because I mean, that’s getting less and less to be the case. But historically speaking, that’s been seen as a normatively desirable thing to say that you do in American society.

GT:  So you go to church, but you haven’t been in the last 30 days?

Jana:  Right. And that is a question that kind of gets at how we view ourselves. We want to see ourselves in a particular way.

Benjamin:  We know from other statistical research that’s been done in the Church that estimates of activity amongst church members from the Church’s perspective is somewhere around like one-third, 40% , right, of the people who are on the records, who are there showing up every Sunday and active and doing things there.  In our survey, that was much, much, much higher.  There was a solid 85% of the people who identify as a Latter-day Saint are saying, “Yes, I’m there. I’m active, I attend church, etc., etc.”

Benjamin  26:08  So, what that implies to us then, is that the rest that the church is saying aren’t active, the remaining 50 to 60%, when asked on a public opinion survey, don’t even identify as LDS. So that’s an important thing to look at.  Amongst a variety of different religions, there is a space where you can say, “Yeah, I’m a Catholic, but I never go.” Or “Yes, I identify with this, but I haven’t darkened the doorway of a church for 30 years.” But, you know, that’s still part of the identity. It seems like this is suggestive to us that there’s less of a space for that within the LDS community. If you’re not actively going, people tend to just not identify as such. And I think that’s an interesting question worth pursuing. Why would that be? And what is it about the LDS community that leads to it being, “If I’m not actively doing the stuff, then I’m not even identifying, either. I don’t feel comfortable identifying.” I think that’s interesting.

What do you think of these contradictory findings?  Are you surprised that people say they are active, but haven’t been to church in the last 30 days?  Were you surprised about the Word of Wisdom question?

Check out our conversation, and check out our previous conversation with Jana and Ben on How to Randomly Sample Mormons.

Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Benjamin Knoll detail a few surprises in their research on Mormon attitudes and practices.
Posted on Leave a comment

How to Randomly Sample Mormons (Part 1 of 6)

I’m excited to introduce Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Benjamin Knoll.  These two have put together the largest survey of Mormon attitudes ever.  With Mormons being just 2% of the U.S. population, I asked them how randomly sample Mormon attitudes.  Jana and Ben will tell us more.

Ben: We contracted with a firm, who has been a leader in developing these methodologies. It has been an approach that has been used successfully, not only by Pew Research, but other social scientists who have tried to get at Mormons in the population, because for the very reason that you’re talking about, it’s 2%, at best, of the US population. So when we make these telephone surveys, that means that one out of every 50 people, if you’re random digit dialing, is going to be someone who says, “Yes, I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” That’s a lot of man hours, you’ve get to go through to make so many calls to get several hundred, if not at least 1000 surveys completed there.w

What other issues are involved in putting together a scientific survey?  Check out our conversation…

Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Ben Knoll have put together the largest public opinion survey of Mormons ever.