Letting some of it trickle out while trying to soak it all in

Sunday, November 20, 2016

What happened to the Never-trump Mormons?

A couple weeks before the election, I passed through Utah for a job interview. My mom and I visited my grandma in American Fork. We talked about her new nursing home, my cousins, and inevitably Mr. Trump. I asked her what would happen if he became president. She had been completely composed and calm up to that point, but on hearing my question, her aged frame erupted in a whole-body shudder.

"I can't even imagine," she said slowly but decisively. "I am voting for McMullin."

I grew up in Utah and during previous elections, it looked like Christmas in October, there were so many Republican signs and billboards. This year, walking around my childhood neighborhood in Orem, the only indication that it was an election year was a "Dump Trump" sign on the Thorne's lawn.

The most famous Mormon besides Jesus, Mitt Romney, had spoken out against Trump, and even Glenn Beck, the conservative talk-show-host-turned-Mormon said that no true Christian could vote for the man. Needless to say, on the flight back to France, I was excited and confident that Utah would reject an unacceptable candidate and go independent.

The day after the election, my Facebook and Twitter feeds came alive with posts citing exit poll numbers such as Pew's analysis on how the faithful voted:

"So much for all my NeverTrump Mormon friends. A higher percentage of Mormons voted for Trump than literally any other religious group."

"Mormons hypocrites crawled back in bed with the Republican party."

"I'm trying to forgive Utah right now. Even though, I know I have no right to be mad at them voting how they did. Your vote belongs to you alone. But I still feel disappointed."

I was disturbed that Trump won nationally and personally disappointed that he won Utah, but when I looked at the numbers, something else stood out to me. Mormons and Jews were the only two groups that moved away from Republicans relative to prior elections. They were the only two groups that responded to the Trump factor.

In the table above, the "Dem' change" column shows a 4 point uptick in the number of Mormons voting Democrat (25% in this election), which along with the 2% increase among Jews is the only shift to the left. That is dwarfed, however, by the "Rep' change" (not shown in the table), which is a 17% decrease. About 80% of Mormons voted for Bush and Romney (the only other elections reported) versus 61% for Trump. All religious groups except Jews and Mormons moved towards Trump, including Hispanic Catholics (go figure). Even the religiously unaffiliated voted the same as they did in 2012. The only two groups that statistically disapproved of the gratuitously offensive and flippantly dangerous antics of Trump were Mormons and Jews.

Trump still won Utah and still won the presidency (unless this is an extended dream) but a 17% shift in a demographic is a sea change. I wish we had done more, but hopefully this represents a movement away from party loyalty and towards thoughtful politics in Mormon circles.

There are more detailed splits in the the Fox News polls, which are totally worth a read. Spoiler alert, Hillary won 66% to 26% on "Has good judgement" and 90% to 8% on "Has the right experience", but Trump blew her away on "Can bring needed change" 83% to 14%. Also 70% of Americans support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

As an aside, today Trump announced that he may pick Romney for his secretary of state. First of all, I think it is a surprising sign of maturity that Trump would invite someone who had been so openly critical of him to his cabinet. Second, call Mittens a hypocrite or flipflopper if you want to, but I hope he accepts. Since only 26% of us think Trump has good judgement, I hope somebody sane can bring some stability to the Trump train.

I haven't spoken with my grandma since the election, but when I do, I'll thank her for being a part of the 17%.


  1. Yeah I am one of them! A more conservative friend of Ben you would be hard-pressed to find. I couldn't support Trump on any front. The only appeal that could have remotely worked was the "Stop Hillary" plea. But surely there is a minimum standard which a candidate must receive before you vote for them just to stop someone else. This was no mildly objectionable candidate that wasn't quite what you are looking for but you can hold your nose and vote for them. I couldn't close my nose tight enough. I judged him dangerous, capricious, intolerant, and petty. So I voted third-party. And since then have been criticized by both sides for throwing away my vote. Sigh.

    1. As for throwing your vote away, do you know this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v7XXSt9XRM

  2. I understand people who wote for Trump, want jobs, opportunities and are unsatisfied with current situation. They really wish for someone to bring back hopes and earth-shaking changes.
    On the other hand, I admire the 17%. They take actions to defend the values they hold.

  3. I took the sign down the day after the election, in the spirit of fairness and hope for the best--maybe he'll fool us all and turn out to do good. But I didn't throw it away; it might still come in handy.