A new survey revealed evangelicals as having the least favorable view of Mormons among polled white Christians.
Just 46 percent of white evangelical Protestants have a positive impression of Mormons compared to 62 percent of white mainline Protestants and 59 percent of white non-Hispanic Catholics, according to The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Overall, a slight majority of the public (53 percent) expressed a favorable view of Mormons, while 27 percent view Mormons unfavorably. A solid 20 percent of Americans said they have no opinion on Mormons.
A person's educational level and whether he considers Mormonism a Christian religion played a factor in a person's view, observed Pew.
Those with higher education tended to have a more positive opinion of Mormons – 64 percent of college graduates expressed favorable views, as did 56 percent of those with some college experience.
But less than half of those with a high school education or less (45 percent) have a positive impression of Mormons.
One of the survey's most striking findings is the significance of the question of whether Mormonism is part of Christianity on a person's view of the religion.
The majority of Americans surveyed (52 percent) believe Mormonism is a Christian religion. However, white evangelicals stand out among polled religious groups for considering Mormons to not be Christians.
Nearly half (45 percent) of white evangelicals say Mormons are not Christian, while 40 percent of them said it is. A higher percentage of white evangelicals who attend services at least once a week (52 percent) said Mormons are not Christians.
In a recent online debate, prominent evangelical scholar, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, argued Mormons are not Christians because from its founding Mormonism has rejected traditional Christian orthodoxy and membership in the traditional church. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president further noted that The Book of Mormon is different than the accepted testament by the historic Christian church. "Here is the bottom line. As an Evangelical Christian – a Christian who holds to the 'traditional Christian orthodoxy' of the Church – I do not believe that Mormonism leads to salvation," wrote Mohler in the "blog dialogue" hosted by the Web site Beliefnet.com in July.
"To the contrary, I believe that it is a false gospel that, however sincere and kind its adherents may be, leads to eternal death rather than to eternal life," he stated. The survey found that non-evangelicals were more open to the idea of Mormonism being part of the Christian family. A majority of mainline Protestants (62 percent) and white non-Hispanic Catholics (59 percent) consider Mormons as Christians. Also, the majority (59 percent) of those with no religious affiliation see the religion as part of the Christian faith.
A noteworthy finding was that less than the majority of the public (49 percent) said they felt they knew a great deal about the Mormon religion and practice, while about an equal number of people (48 percent) said they knew a Mormon.
As a group, those who view Mormons as Christians had a significantly higher favorable view of its followers (68 percent) than those who say Mormonism is not a Christian religion (34 percent).
Despite the fact the majority of the public consider it part of Christianity, most people still believe Mormons are very different than their own religion. A solid majority of polled non-Mormons (most of whom are Christians), said Mormonism is very different than their religion (62 percent).
White evangelical Protestants were most likely to say Mormonism is different than their religion (67 percent), followed by white non-Hispanic Catholics (61 percent), and white mainline Protestants (56 percent).
The Pew also found that those who do not believe that the Mormon religion is Christian (42 percent) tended to say they would less likely vote for a Mormon president, compared to those who consider Mormonism as a Christian religion (16 percent).
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life conducted telephone interviews with 3,002 adults from Aug. 1-18 for this survey.