Despite leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discouraging members from supporting same-sex marriage, support is growing exponentially among Latter-day Saints. The church has formally supported several legal challenges to same-sex marriage, including Proposition 8, which attempted to ban same-sex marriage in California in 2008, and urging Latter-day Saints to fight against same-sex marriage in 2016. However, newly released data from Public Religion Research Institute suggests that members are increasingly finding themselves at odds with the church’s stance.
Datapoint #1: Support for Same-Sex Marriage Is Nearly 50% Among Latter-day Saints, and Exceeds 50% Among Some Latter-day Saints
Data from the 2021 American Values Atlas, which included responses from 40,000 Americans, suggests that 46% of Latter-day Saints support same-sex marriage. Further, the majority of both younger (ages 18-49) and politically independent Latter-day Saints support same-sex marriage (52% and 54%, respectively).
Datapoint #2: The Gap in Support for Same-Sex Marriage Between Latter-day Saints and Americans Generally Is Shrinking
Although Latter-day Saints are less likely to support same-sex marriage than Americans generally, the gap between the two groups is shrinking. Data from the 2021 American Values Atlas suggests that 46% of Latter-day Saints and 68% of Americans support same-sex marriage. This 22% difference is down from a 27% difference in the 2014 American Values Atlas, when only 27% of Latter-day Saints and 54% of Americans supported same-sex marriage. As shown in Figure 1, these differences represent relatively stable increases in support for same-sex marriage over time for both groups.
Datapoint #3: Support for Same-Sex Marriage Has Approximately Doubled Among Several Groups of Latter-day Saints in the Past Seven Years
It appears that most conservative groups of Latter-day Saints are becoming more accepting of same-sex marriage. According to the 2014 and 2021 American Values Atlases, support for same-sex marriage has approximately doubled among Latter-Day Saint men (from 23% in 2014 to 46% in 2021), among Latter-day Saints ages 50 and older (from 22% in 2014 to 38% in 2021), and among Latter-day Saints in the so-called Mormon corridor of Utah, Idaho, and Arizona (from 22% in 2014 to 45% in 2021).
Pulling the Data Together
Given the sharp increases in support for same-sex marriage generally, the nearly doubling support among the most conservative Latter-day Saints, and the majority support among younger Latter-day Saints, it is clear that Latter-day Saints are becoming increasingly more supportive of same-sex marriage, despite messaging from church leaders. Given these trends, it seems highly likely that a large majority of Latter-day Saints will support same-sex marriage in the not-too-distant future. These trends forecast a complicated position for both Latter-day Saints and their leaders, as they find themselves stuck between potentially opposing personal and religious views.
Tyler Lefevor is a member of the 2021-2022 cohort of PRRI Public Fellows.