Nonetheless, the Bush Administration made some young Mormons cynical and led them toward the Democrats, says Richard Davis, a political science professor at BYU. But Davis believes the Democratic drift has been neutralized over the last three years. "I don't think they moved back to being Republicans, but they're not as enamored with Obama and are not as likely to be Democrats," he says. "If Romney wins the nomination and the election, I think he has that potential of connecting himself to the Republican Party, thus making the Republican Party more attractive to young LDS members who are independent."
Other young Mormons find themselves conflicted on Romney.
"It seems that anytime a Mormon becomes prominent in society, everyone in the church latches onto them like they are our only hope of the world ever accepting us and perceiving our church as normal," says Casey Evenhus, a senior history teaching major at BYU. "That's what they are doing with Mitt Romney."
Evenhus, 22, was not born into the LDS Church, but was baptized in 2006 when she was 17, the only member of her family to belong to the church. When she turned 18, she registered as a Republican because -- judging by her friends -- that's what she thought Mormons did. In 2008, she was torn between her personal leaning toward the Democratic Party and then-Sen. Barack Obama on one hand, and the culture of the LDS church on the other. "I felt a sense of loyalty to Romney since he was one of 'my people,'" says Evenhus, who is secretary of the BYU Democrats. "But I knew deep down that I did not want to vote for someone just because they were a Mormon."
In Utah County, which includes Provo, there can be a temptation to hide liberal or Democratic views to avoid being ostracized. Evenhus likened her BYU classmates finding out she was a Democrat to a zoo exhibit, with students gawking at her trying to process what or who they're in the presence of. "Whenever I go on dates with someone, I have to debate in my mind when the right time is to 'come out' as a liberal," she says.
Will Matheson, a recent BYU graduate who is now chair of the Utah County Democratic Party, says he thinks millennial Mormons are shrugging off the idea that it is an inherent contradiction for young Mormons to be liberals or Democrats. That's good for the faith, he says.
"As a Democrat, I have always felt that raising my voice helps out the church," says Matheson. "The church's missionary effort is likely hurt when people feel that they have to become conservatives on top of no smoking, no coffee, no sex outside of marriage, and at least three hours of church attendance a week."
Young Mormons who favor Romney face some intolerance themselves. Many fellow conservatives who are evangelical Christians remain wary of Mormonism. Recently, one-third of Republicans said Mormonism is not a Christian religion, according to the most recent poll from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. This distrust is difficult for young Mormons to ignore, but a Romney nomination could actually bring young Mormons together as they try to correct misconceptions and misunderstandings about. "They will get involved for their political views, but they won't pass up an opportunity to stand up for their religious beliefs," Matheson says.