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Washington • Mormons give President Barack Obama the lowest approval ratings of any religious group, according to a new poll underscoring the faith's conservative bent.
A Gallup survey released Friday shows only 24 percent of LDS faithful approve of the president's job performance, down from 43 percent a year ago. Mormons have consistently given Obama his lowest ratings among religious groups, according to Gallup polls dating to the beginning of his presidency.
The slide of support among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is more pronounced than with Catholics, Protestants, Jews and other religious believers in America, the poll shows.
Muslims have consistently offered the president the highest approval rating of any religious group, now at 78 percent, down from 83 percent a year ago, while half of Catholics polled backed the president.
About 43 percent of Protestants and other Christian faithful gave Obama a positive approval rating.
"I'm pleasantly surprised by it that the numbers are as significant as they are," said Utah Republican Party Chairman Dave Hansen. "Mormons tend to be more Republican, and that has an impact on it, I'm sure. And Mormons tend to value fiscal responsibility in their own personal lives and they want it in their government, too."
The new poll numbers fit well into previous surveys identifying Mormons as largely aligning themselves with the conservative side of politics. Sixty percent of Mormons said they considered themselves as conservatives in a poll commissioned last year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, while only 10 percent said they were liberal. Three in 10 said they tended to be more moderate on the political scale.
State Sen. Ben McAdams, a Mormon Democrat, says it may take time to bear out, but he believes the work that Obama is doing like expanding health care to those in need will be recognized as values close to the heart of LDS faithful.
"A lot of the work of Democrats in Utah is to get people to look beyond party label to what values individual candidates hold that are directly in line with the beliefs of the LDS faith," McAdams said.
But Kirk Jowers, a Mormon and head of University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said Obama isn't likely to pick up much support among the LDS faithful.
"When only one in 10 Mormons consider themselves liberal, there's not a natural base of Obama support among Mormons," Jowers said. "Mormons are well-known for the F's: families, frugality and faith. Traditionally, those values have been more closely associated with conservatives and the Republican Party."
The highest-ranking Mormon elected government official, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, has attempted to boost standing for his faith with the president. Reid organized a meeting between LDS leaders and Obama in the Oval Office last year and church officials met with first lady Michelle Obama in the spring.
Utah Democratic Party Executive Director Todd Taylor says the poll is more about the political makeup of the Mormon faith. It's no shock, he says, that a religion that has conservative members in the majority would give bad marks to a Democratic president.
"I don't see this as being about religion," Taylor said. "It's just the partisan make-up of that particular group of people."