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Poll Finds Religious Split in GOP Presidential Primaries

Just 318 days before the Iowa caucuses launch the first round of the presidential primaries, a poll suggests a religious divide among Republican primary voters. Former Arkansas governor (and former Baptist pastor) Mike Huckabee polls well among church-goers and evangelicals who are key voting blocs in the Republican primary, according to a new poll by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Pew finds Huckabee and Romney leading the field among Republicans nationwide, each with around one-fifth of Republicans naming them as their top choice. But there is a religious split among GOP voters, with 29 percent of white evangelicals favoring Huckabee and only 15 percent picking Romney.

Huckabee did about as well among Catholics (27 vs. 16 percent). Huckabee's support among white mainline Protestants was lower (15 percent); Romney was the top-choice of 22 percent of mainliners.

In general, Huckabee performs best among religious voters, with 30 percent of those who attend church weekly supporting him. Romney, however, polled best among those who are not religious. He is the top pick among those who do not attend church weekly (24 percent). Within the GOP, one-third of those who are not religious or belong to a smaller faith group want Romney as the Republican nominee. Only 7 percent said they preferred Huckabee. Indeed, both former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (14 percent) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) (8 percent) did better than Huckabee among those who are nonreligious or belong to a smaller faith group.

Palin also did well among evangelicals, with 16 percent voicing support for her. A sizable number of mainline Protestants also support her (13 percent). She fared worse among Catholics, with only six percent naming her as their top choice.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was named by around one-in-ten GOP voters, but he did best among religious voters. He did well among evangelicals, with around 11 percent support. He is more popular among Catholics and Mainline Protestants (each with 16 percent). Unaffiliated and other voters, however, named him only 2 percent of the time.

Frequent choices were "none of the above" and "I don't know." Around 15 percent of voters do not support any candidate at this point. Those who are not religious were the most likely to not name anyone (21 percent); evangelicals were more likely to have made a pick, with only 11 percent not naming a candidate.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is one of the few to have formerly started a campaign, but he is one of the many who were named by a small percentage of GOP voters. Others who had less than 10 percentage points in the poll were Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

In the poll, white evangelicals make up one-third of Republican voters (compared to 18 percent nationwide). About half of the GOP voters say they attend church at least once a week. But the influence of these groups is more important in Iowa, South Carolina, Florida, and some other early primary states where the field of candidates is narrowed.

Related Topics:Politics
Posted:March 28, 2011 at 11:56AM
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Poll Finds Religious Split in GOP Presidential Primaries