Experts on American Mormonism said the poll is the most detailed outside survey of the community, which makes up slightly less than 2 percent of the U.S. population.
It paints a picture of a group that is far more socially and politically conservative than the general population. Despite concerns about prejudice, Mormons also register unusually high rates of satisfaction with their own lives and communities. Some of the findings:
● Seventy-four percent of Mormons say they lean Republican, compared with 45 percent of Americans overall.
●Seventy-nine percent said sex between unmarried adults is wrong, compared with 35 percent of the general population.
● Fifty-eight percent of Mormons say the best kind of marriage is one with a husband as provider and a wife to care for the house and children; in the general population, 62 percent say it’s preferable for both partners to have jobs and take care of the home.
Some experts said the poll heralds a period in which Mormonism is being forced, by an interested public and by the explosion in recent years of independent Mormon bloggers, to open up, accept criticism from inside and outside the church, and shift from being a close-knit family to a creed that connects people by belief.
“This is a step toward a greater intellectual maturity in the church. Frankly, it’s about moving into the mainstream,” said David Campbell, a prominent political scientist from the University of Notre Dame, who focuses on religion and is a Mormon.
Some experts said the poll portrays Mormons as more uniform, observant and conservative than they are. The poll found that Mormons are more than twice as religiously committed as the general population and significantly more committed than such observant groups as black Protestants and white evangelicals.
“This sample looks like very busy, hyperactive Mormons,” said Marie Cornwall, a Mormon sociologist at Brigham Young University. “Who are these people? Many of us are really surprised at how religious this group is.”
Such comments reflect a rising debate in recent years about what Mormons really believe and do and the lack of data made public thus far.
Some sociologists blame church officials for not releasing more of the meticulous data they keep. Cornwall said that Mormon culture in recent decades has become more doctrinaire and that church members who don’t attend every required service or agree with every teaching might feel that they cannot fairly call themselves a “Mormon” to a pollster.
Campbell said a long history of prejudice has made Mormons defensive, wary of saying anything that might appear critical.