Religion in the Super Tuesday Primaries

Mar 07, 2012

Mitt Romney won six of the 10 GOP caucuses and primaries held on Super Tuesday, while Rick Santorum won three states and Newt Gingrich was victorious in one. Romney continues to struggle among the GOP’s white born-again/evangelical voters. He did win the evangelical vote in two of the seven states where exit polling was conducted – Massachusetts (where he served as governor) and Virginia (where neither Santorum nor Gingrich were on the ballot). In four states, Romney received significantly less support from evangelicals than from non-evangelical voters. This continues the pattern seen in previous caucuses and primaries; before Super Tuesday, Romney had received less support from evangelicals than from non-evangelicals in every contest for which data are available.

Exit polls in four of the Super Tuesday states asked voters about their religious affiliation (Protestant, Catholic, etc.). Romney, Santorum and Gingrich each won the Protestant vote in one state, while Protestants were evenly divided between Romney and Santorum in the fourth (Ohio). Catholics preferred Romney in two states (Massachusetts and Ohio) and were evenly divided in Georgia (between Romney and Gingrich) and Tennessee (between Romney and Santorum). Santorum, who has been Romney’s closest competitor in recent primaries and who is Catholic himself, has yet to achieve an outright victory among Catholics in any state for which data are available.

Exit polls also show that Romney continues to get less support from voters who say it is important to them to have a candidate who shares their religious beliefs than from voters for whom this is not important. Virginia is the only Super Tuesday state for which data are available in which Romney was the clear favorite of voters who say it matters “a great deal” or “somewhat” that a candidate shares their religious beliefs.

Read the full report, Religion in the Super Tuesday Primaries, on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life's Web site.

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