Religion and the 2012 Republican Primaries: Arizona and Michigan

Feb 29, 2012

Mitt Romney won the Arizona Republican primary by a large margin and secured a narrow victory in the Michigan Republican primary. In both states, Romney’s support among born-again/evangelical voters was weaker than among non-evangelicals, continuing the pattern from previous primaries and caucuses in other states. Rick Santorum, who finished second in both Arizona and Michigan, received his strongest support from evangelicals and from voters who said it matters a “great deal” to them that a candidate shares their religious beliefs, according to results from the National Election Pool exit polls.

In Michigan, 39% of the GOP electorate was comprised of white evangelical Protestants. Santorum was the clear winner of the evangelical vote, receiving 51% support from this group, compared with 35% for Romney. The balance of opinion was reversed among non-evangelical voters in Michigan, with 45% voting for Romney and 30% supporting Santorum. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich each finished far behind Romney and Santorum among both groups of Michigan GOP voters.

There were few differences by religious affiliation in the Michigan primary. Among Protestants in the Michigan exit poll, 40% voted for Romney and 42% supported Santorum. Among Michigan Catholics, 44% voted for Romney while 37% backed Santorum.

Santorum won the support of more than six-in-ten Michigan voters (63%) who said that it matters a “great deal” to them that a candidate shares their religious beliefs. Romney and Santorum ran about even among voters who said candidates’ religious beliefs were “somewhat” important. And Romney was the clear favorite among the 44% of Michigan voters who said that the candidates’ religious beliefs were not a key factor in their voting decision.

Read the full report, Religion and the 2012 Republican Primaries: Arizona and Michigan, on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.

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