Religion and the 2012 Nevada Republican Caucuses
Mitt Romney’s strong win in the 2012 Nevada Republican caucuses included overwhelming support from Mormons and strong support from Catholic voters, according to results from the National Election Pool entrance poll. Romney also was the winner among white born-again/evangelical Protestants, making Nevada the second state (the other was New Hampshire) in which he has been victorious among evangelicals in the 2012 primary season. Romney’s support among evangelicals, however, continues to be somewhat more tepid than among non-evangelicals.
More than four-in-ten white evangelical voters (43%) supported Romney in the Nevada caucuses. Newt Gingrich finished in second place among this group with 28% support, while Ron Paul (14%) and Rick Santorum (15%) were essentially tied for third among Nevada evangelical voters. Romney’s margin of victory among non-evangelical voters (31 points) was about twice as large as his margin among evangelicals (15 points). Fully 52% of non-evangelicals voted for Romney, compared with 21% for Paul, 19% for Gingrich and 8% for Santorum.
Romney was also victorious in the 2008 Nevada Republican caucuses, receiving 51% of the vote. Then as now, Romney’s support among evangelical voters was more tepid than among non-evangelicals. Among white evangelicals, 37% voted for Romney in 2008 while 23% supported Mike Huckabee, 14% preferred Paul and 11% voted for Fred Thompson. Romney’s support was significantly stronger among non-evangelical voters in 2008; 54% voted for him while 15% supported John McCain, Romney’s closest competitor among this group.
Mormons accounted for one-quarter of the electorate in the Nevada Republican caucuses, and nearly nine-in-ten of them (88%) voted for Romney. Romney was also the clear winner among Catholics, receiving 48% of their vote. Romney and Gingrich received roughly equivalent levels of support from Protestants and other Christians in Nevada, with each candidate receiving about one-third of the groups’ votes.1 Among the 8% of Nevada voters who are religiously unaffiliated, Paul was the clear winner with 54% support. Romney earned 24% support from the religiously unaffiliated, while 16% of this group voted for Gingrich and 5% supported Santorum.
In the 2008 Nevada Republican caucuses, Romney received nearly unanimous support (95%) from Mormon voters. Romney also won that year among Protestant voters, among whom 43% voted for him. Roughly one-third of Catholics voted for Romney in 2008, while 22% supported McCain, 16% voted for Paul and 15% preferred Thompson. Among the religiously unaffiliated, 42% voted for Paul in the 2008 Nevada caucuses, while 24% supported Romney and 15% voted for McCain.
This analysis is based on results from entrance polls conducted as voters entered the Nevada caucuses. The poll was conducted by Edison Media Research for the National Election Pool. Full results and additional details from the 2012 entrance poll can be accessed at http://www.cnn.com/election/2012/primaries/epolls/nv. Full results and additional details from the 2008 entrance poll can be accessed at http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/primaries/results/epolls/index.html#NVREP.
1 The results for the “Protestant” category reported here cannot be directly compared with the results for “Protestants” from the New Hampshire, South Carolina or Florida Republican primaries. In those states, the “Protestant” category as reported on CNN.com includes self-identified Protestants as well as Mormons (who make up a relatively small share of the population in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida compared with Nevada) and other Christians. (return to text)
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