Loyalty to the Republican Party is ingrained in the Latter-day Saints religion. But in Arizona, some find the president’s behavior at odds with their values and are shifting to Joe Biden.
By Hank Stephenson
TUCSON — For the better part of a century, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have made their political home under the Republican Party’s tent, motivated by conservative beliefs rooted in the family values, personal liberty and economic frugality of their faith.
But some church members now find themselves in a political quandary: They’re still Republicans, but they no longer fit in with the party as exemplified by President Trump, who for them represents a hard departure from the church’s teachings on sex, crude language, empathy and humility.
In Arizona — the only state up for grabs that has a significant Latter-day Saint population — a growing number are finding refuge in Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee.
“I think the White House should be worried about L.D.S. voters, especially in Arizona,” said Quin Monson, a Utah-based pollster, political scientist and author of a book about the politics of the religion.
Most church members are still likely to support the president again this year, Mr. Monson said, noting that party loyalty is ingrained in the religion. They agree with Mr. Trump more than they disagree with him, and for many, the issue of abortion is a litmus test that few Democratic candidates can pass.
Still, exit polling from 2016 showed 56 percent of church members supported Mr. Trump, far less than the support he received from members of other faiths. Mr. Trump, for instance, won almost 80 percent of the white evangelical Christian vote.
Even a small shift in Latter-day Saints’ voting patterns could have a large impact in Arizona. There are about 437,000 members of the faith in the state, though that number includes children; Mr. Trump won by just 91,000 votes in 2016. With well educated suburbanites already moving away from the president, the race is expected to be considerably closer this year.
Despite their reservations about Mr. Trump in 2016, members of the faith largely fell into familiar voting patterns, supporting Mr. Trump or begrudgingly casting their votes for a third-party candidate.
But Mr. Biden doesn’t cause the same reluctance among some Latter-day Saints as Hillary Clinton did. They like his temperament and personality, arguing that the warmth and empathy he displays much more closely mirrors the behaviors that the church demands of its followers than Mr. Trump’s grating style.
Rob Taber, the head of the LDS Democrats of America, has been courting Latter-day Saints for the Democratic Party since 2012, when Mitt Romney, perhaps the world’s most famous church member, was the Republican nominee.
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