(RNS) Mitt Romney has trounced Rick Santorum, an ardent
Catholic, among Catholic voters, but Romney's support among evangelicals has
wavered thus far in the GOP presidential primary, according to a new analysis
of exit poll data.
Though he won
evangelicals in two states, in general Romney has performed 15 percentage
points better among non-evangelicals, according to an analysis released Friday
(March 2) by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Exit poll data
is available in seven of the 11 states that have held primary contests to date,
according to the Pew Forum. More detailed religious affiliations are available
in six of those states.
evangelicals formed more than a third of all GOP primary voters in each state
except for Nevada (24 percent) and New Hampshire (21 percent). Romney, a
Mormon, won the evangelical vote in those two states, and nearly tied for first
in Arizona and Florida. But he lost the evangelical vote badly in three states:
Michigan, Iowa and South Carolina.
surprisingly, Santorum has not won the Catholic vote in a single state in which
data is available, according to the Pew Forum.
Romney won the
Catholic vote by at least 25 points in Florida, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Romney also won 47 percent of the Catholic vote in Arizona, compared to
Santorum's 33 percent. In Michigan, Romney bested Santorum among Catholics 44
to 37 percent.
spoken far more about his faith during the campaign, while Romney has largely
been mum on his Mormonism.
numerous separate polls, a significant minority of GOP voters, especially
evangelicals, remain reluctant to vote for a Mormon president. Most Mainline
Protestants and Catholics do not display the same aversion.
Romney, who has
won more primary elections and delegates than any other GOP candidate, also won
the Protestant vote in three states: New Hampshire, Nevada and Arizona.
Pew Forum notes that Romney's success among Protestants in Nevada and Arizona
is boosted by their large Mormon populations. (The Pew Forum does not typically
consider Mormons Protestant, but exit polls often do). Romney won 88 percent of
the Mormon vote in Nevada and 96 percent in Arizona.
congressman Ron Paul has performed the best among religiously unaffiliated
voters in the two states -- Nevada and New Hampshire -- where they participated
in large enough numbers to be analyzed.