his South Carolina Republican primary win, Newt Gingrich received strong
support from born-again/evangelical Christians and from voters who said that it is important to them that a candidate shares their religious beliefs.
Gingrich also won a plurality of votes among Protestants (42%); Catholics in the
National Election Pool exit poll were
more evenly split between Gingrich (37%) and Mitt Romney (29%).
was the clear winner among the two-thirds of South Carolina primary voters who
described themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians, earning 44%
support. Romney (22%) and Rick Santorum (21%) finished far behind Gingrich
among evangelical voters, while Ron Paul received 13% support from this group.
fared significantly better among the one-third of South Carolina voters who did
not describe themselves as evangelical Christians than he did among
evangelicals; 38% of non-evangelicals voted for Romney, compared with 33% who
supported Gingrich, 15% who voted for Paul and 10% who backed Santorum.
the 2008 South Carolina primary, Romney finished fourth, far behind both eventual
nominee John McCain and Mike Huckabee, and slightly behind Fred Thompson. In
that race, Romney trailed both Huckabee and McCain by large margins among
evangelical voters and was soundly beaten by McCain among non-evangelicals.
Paul won 4% of the votes in South Carolina in 2008.
four-in-ten South Carolina Protestants (42%) voted for Gingrich in the 2012
primary, while 27% supported Romney, 17% backed Santorum and 12% voted for
Paul. Compared with Protestants, Catholics were more evenly split between
Gingrich (37%) and Romney (29%).1
2008, Huckabee won 36% of the Protestant vote in South Carolina, compared with
30% for McCain, 16% for Thompson and 13% for Romney. Romney did somewhat better
among South Carolina Catholics (24% of whom voted for him) than Protestants,
though he still trailed McCain by a large margin (45% of Catholics voted for
2012, six-in-ten South Carolina primary voters said that having
a candidate who shares their religious beliefs matters "a great deal"
or "somewhat". This group clearly favored Gingrich (46%) over the other candidates.
By contrast, 39% of those polled who said that the candidates’ religious
beliefs mattered less to them voted for Romney, while 32%
also performed better among voters who attached little importance to the
candidates’ religious beliefs in the 2008 South Carolina primary. He finished
second to McCain among this group but fourth among those polled who said having a candidate who shares their religious beliefs mattered at least somewhat.
This analysis is based on results from exit polls conducted as voters
left the polls during the South Carolina 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/sc. Full results and additional details from the 2008 exit poll can be
accessed at http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/primaries/results/epolls/index.html#SCREP.
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: © Blaine Harrington III/Corbis