SALT LAKE CITY: Republicans across the United States have grappled with the polarizing White House candidacy of Donald Trump, but nowhere has negative reaction been more swift than among Utah’s sizeable Mormon population.
“Rude,” “unstable,” “arrogant,” “misogynist” — the staunchly Republican voters in the western state are not mincing their words when it comes to how they feel about Trump.
Along the esplanade of the Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon equivalent of the Vatican, voters say they either cannot stomach Trump, or are reluctantly casting their ballots for him.
“I’m a Republican but I cannot vote for Trump,” said Nancy Peterson, a therapist. “I feel he’s completely untrustworthy. “I don’t like the way he treats minorities, women, people from other countries. He has too much anger inside of him and he’s too self-serving.”
David Lifferth, 51, a business analyst, admits his loyalty to the Republican Party has won out, but he’s not enthusiastic about voting for the former reality TV star. “I wish we had a better candidate,” said Lifferth.
Republican officials in the state are also unsettled by Trump’s candidacy and the Deseret News, a media outlet owned by the Church, broke with an 80-year-old tradition of not meddling in politics by calling in an editorial last month for Trump to step aside.
The aversion to Trump is such that a relative unknown on the political scene — Evan McMullin — stepped in as an independent candidate in August, throwing a curveball into the upcoming election. Should McMullin win the vote in Utah, he would be the first non-Republican presidential candidate in 50 years to be elected in the mountainous state.
The aversion to Trump goes way deeper than just his lifestyle in the Mormon community, which counts six million followers in the United States and eight million more worldwide, many of them in Latin America. The real estate mogul’s rhetoric about Hispanics and immigration did not sit well in a community that has often been persecuted and faced religious bias.
“Trump has made immigration his signature issue and Utah voters have a different view,” said Matthew Burbank, a political science professor at the University of Utah. “They are very pro-families, they don’t want immigration policies to break up families. They do a huge amount of missionary activity in South America.”