January 11, 2012

Religion and the 2012 New Hampshire Republican Primary

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Voting by Born-Again Status

Interviews conducted as voters left the polls in the 2012 New Hampshire Republican primary show that Mitt Romney – who won the overall vote by a double-digit margin – was the winner among born-again evangelical Christians as well as among non-evangelical voters. Romney’s advantage among evangelicals was smaller than it was in the electorate overall, but his performance among evangelicals in New Hampshire was better than it was among evangelicals in the Iowa GOP caucuses.

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In the exit polls, 22% of New Hampshire voters describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians. Of those, 31% voted for Romney. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were effectively tied for second place among evangelicals (23% voted for Santorum, 21% for Paul). Fewer evangelicals voted for Newt Gingrich (13%), Jon Huntsman (9%) and Rick Perry (1%). Romney’s showing among evangelicals was somewhat better in New Hampshire than one week earlier in Iowa, where Santorum finished first among self-identified born-again or evangelical GOP caucus-goers.

Among the 78% of New Hampshire primary voters who are not evangelical Christians, four-in-ten voted for Romney (40%), while about one-in-four supported Paul (24%) and about one-in-five supported Huntsman (19%). Roughly one-in-ten non-evangelical voters supported Gingrich in New Hampshire (8%), while 6% voted for Santorum and less than 1% turned out for Perry. As in New Hampshire, Romney was also the winner among non-evangelical voters in the Iowa caucuses.

In 2008, Romney ran about even with both John McCain and Mike Huckabee among evangelical voters in the New Hampshire primary, and roughly even with McCain among non-evangelical voters.

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Voting by Religious Affiliation

Another way of exploring the link between religion and politics is to examine the religious affiliation (e.g., Protestant, Catholic, etc.) of voters.1 This analysis shows that Romney’s strongest support came from Catholics. He was also the preferred candidate of Protestants, but Paul was the favorite of those who say they have “no religion.”

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Romney received the votes of more than four-in-ten New Hampshire Catholics (45%), while each of the other candidates garnered support from less than 20% of Catholics. Romney was supported by more than one-third of Protestants (35%), with each of the other candidates receiving one-fifth or less of the Protestant vote. Among the 13% of New Hampshire voters who describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, about half voted for Paul (47%) while 23% supported Romney, 21% voted for Huntsman and smaller numbers voted for other candidates.

By way of comparison, Romney ran about even with McCain among both Protestants and Catholics in the 2008 New Hampshire primary. Then, as now, he placed second among religiously unaffiliated voters; 35% of this group voted for McCain in 2008, while 22% voted for Romney.

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This analysis is based on results from exit  polls conducted as voters left the polls during the New Hampshire Republican primary election. The polls were conducted by Edison Media Research for the National Election Pool. Full results and additional details from the 2012 exit poll can be accessed at http://www.cnn.com/election/2012/primaries/epolls/nh. Full results and additional details from the 2008 exit poll can be accessed at  http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/primaries/results/state/#NH.


Footnotes:

1 Voters can describe themselves in exit polls as born-again or evangelical Christians regardless of their religious affiliation, meaning that the born-again/evangelical category likely includes not only Protestants but also some Catholics and even some voters who say they have “no religion.” (return to text)

Photo Credit: © Franz-Marc Frei/Corbis