On Saturday, 17 May, LDS Church-owned Deseret News ran a story titled, “Anti-LDS bias running high” in which was reported the findings of a two-year study done by the San Francisco think tank Institute for Jewish and Community Research.The survey, The Religious Identity and Behavior of College Faculty (pdf file of the complete report available here), was conducted online, gathering results from 1,269 faculty members from over 700 four-year colleges and universities. It was the second in a three-part series on the political and religious views of American faculty.
Deseret News reported:
Results of a two-year study released this week show one-third of university faculty nationwide have an unfavorable impression of Latter-day Saints, while an equal proportion of the general population holds a favorable view… among social sciences and humanities faculty, the “unfavorable” rating for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was at 38 percent.
The article made passing mention of the fact that the survey showed Evangelical Christians “were also viewed unfavorably,” then went on to discuss the possible reasons that Mormons fared so poorly.
It seems reasonable that Deseret News, enjoying a large LDS readership, would highlight the study’s results in relation to Mormonism. Yet it seems to me that the story’s focus and emphasis on “anti-LDS bias” only fueled the general idea of continuing persecution many Mormons perceive as a major factor in their religious identity.
The result of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research study is really remarkable for what it reveals about faculty attitudes toward Evangelical Christians. The Institute’s May 7th press release stated in part,
According to a two-year study released today by the Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR), 53% of non-Evangelical university faculty say they hold cool or unfavorable views of Evangelical Christians — the only major religious denomination to be viewed negatively by a majority of faculty. Only 30% of faculty hold positive views of Evangelicals, 56% of faculty in social sciences and humanities departments hold unfavorable views….”This survey shows a disturbing level of prejudice or intolerance among U.S. faculty towards tens of millions of Evangelical Christians,” said Gary Tobin, president of IJCR. “What’s odd is that while a good number of faculty believe in a close, personal relationship with God and believe religion is essential to a child’s upbringing, many of those same people feel deeply unfavorable toward of [sic] Evangelicals.”…
A significant majority — 71% of all faculty — agreed with the statement: “This country would be better off if Christian fundamentalists kept their religious beliefs out of politics.” By comparison, only 38% of faculty disagreed that the country would be better off if Muslims became more politically organized.
The report itself made the following point regarding attitudes toward Evangelicals compared with attitudes toward Mormons:
Faculty Hold the Most Unfavorable Feelings toward EvangelicalsJust one group elicited high negative feelings among faculty: Only 30% ranked their feelings toward Evangelical Christians as warm/favorable, with only 11% feeling very warm/favorable, the lowest ranking among every other religious group, and 53% said that they have cool/unfavorable feelings toward Evangelical Christians. Faculty feelings about Evangelicals are significantly cooler than any other religious group, leading Mormons as the least liked religious group by 20%. These negative feelings are noted across academic disciplines and demographic factors. (12)
The report is both fascinating and somewhat frightening. It’s definitely disappointing to Evangelical Christians, though I’m sure these statistics come as no surprise to those who daily experience intolerance toward the Christian worldview. If you get a chance, read the conclusion of The Religious Identity and Behavior of College Faculty report (pages 85-88). These are interesting times in which we live.