Voter analyses examine faith factor

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On Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney, a Mormon, did best among Georgia’s Cath­olics while Newt Gingrich, a Catho­lic, did best among Georgia’s evangelicals.

Newt Gingrich celebrates his Georgia primary win with his wife, Callista. Gingrich, a Catholic, did best among the state's evangelicals, winning over 52 percent of those voters, according to exit poll data. It was the only state in which he did that well.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Newt Gingrich celebrates his Georgia primary win with his wife, Callista. Gingrich, a Catholic, did best among the state's evangelicals, winning over 52 percent of those voters, according to exit poll data. It was the only state in which he did that well.

The findings are part of an analysis of exit poll data conducted by the Pew Research Center. Polls were taken in seven of the 10 states that held caucuses or primaries March 6. The polls asked, in addition to religious affiliation, whether it matters that a
candidate shares the voter’s religious beliefs.

Three out of four Georgia voters said it did, but results from Tuesday’s primary show voters in Georgia largely voted along political, rather than religious, lines.

“Because Gingrich is from Georgia, it muddies the water a little bit, but there are still some interesting numbers here,” said Saundra Reinke, the director of the Center for Public Ser­vice and Research at Augusta State Uni­versity.

ROMNEY, FOR EXAMPLE, won 38 percent of Georgia’s Catholic vote, even as he faced off against two Catholic politicians. The former Massa­chusetts governor narrowly beat Gingrich, who had 34 percent of the Catholic vote, and Rick Santorum, who had 21 percent.

Gingrich did best among evangelicals, winning 52 percent of the white, born-again evangelical vote in Geor­gia.

That category likely includes not only Protestants but also some Catholics and voters who otherwise say they have no religion, according to Pew Research, because it’s up to voters to self-identify as “evangelical.”

“Individuals who identify themselves as evangelical tend to be some of the most conservative politically,” Reinke said. “It makes sense that Gingrich appeals.”

Georgia was the only state in which the former House speaker did as well among evangelicals, according to Pew Research.

Santorum took the evangelical vote in three Super Tuesday states: Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Romney won the evangelical vote in two states: his home state of Massachusetts and in Virginia, where neither Gingrich nor Santorum were on the ballot.

IT’S NO SURPRISE that Romney, who won six of the 10 Super Tuesday races, received significantly less support from evangelicals than from non-evangelicals. According to Pew, that had happened in every pre-Super Tuesday contest with data available.

That’s likely because Romney’s Mormon faith continues to pose a challenge for religious conservative voters, according to Robert E. Botsch, a professor of political science and the director of the University of South Carolina Aiken Social Science and Business Research Lab.

After South Carolina’s GOP primary in January, Botsch analyzed exit poll data and released a report titled The Religion Question and Presidential Selection: Confronting the Elephant in the Room. He found that Romney did nearly twice as well among non-evangelical voters as he did among evangelicals, having won just 22 percent of
their votes in the South Carolina primary.

“I suspect the same thing is going on in Georgia,” Botsch wrote in an e-mail. “The misgivings about a Mormon are going to be highest among Protestant fundamentalists.”

ON SUPER TUESDAY, Ging­rich did best among Protes­tants in general, winning 50 percent of their vote in Georgia, compared with Santorum at 23 percent and Romney at 21 percent.

For that, Gingrich owes John F. Kennedy a debt of gratitude, Botsch said.

“Voting for or against presidential candidates on the basis of religion has a long history in our nation, dating back to (John) Adams supporters opposing (Thomas) Jefferson on the grounds that he was not a Christian,” he wrote in the report. “That in 2012 ‘born-again’ Catholic Newt Gingrich won a plurality in heavily Protestant South Carolina suggests that we have come a long way since 1960, when whether to vote for a Catholic was the religion question. … Romney, whether he wins or loses, has the historic opportunity to help the nation begin to eliminate the religion question for one more religious group.”



Newt Gingrich 40.1%

Mitt Romney 28.9%

Rick Santorum 22.9%

Ron Paul 7.1%


Newt Gingrich 41.1%

Mitt Romney 27.5%

Rick Santorum 24.9%

Ron Paul 5.9%

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allhans 03/11/12 - 01:32 pm
It isn't whether our next

It isn't whether our next president is Baptist, Catholic, Jewish or whatever denomination, only that he believe in the TEN Commandments.

Bonkk 03/11/12 - 04:25 pm
Funny how it worked out to be

Funny how it worked out to be exactly 10. Only 3 have any real meaning: Don't murder, don't steal and don't committ perjury.

Bonkk 03/11/12 - 04:43 pm
Anyway I was looking at the

Anyway I was looking at the results from both counties and they are amazingly close. The people in Columbia County are just as ignorant as those in Richmond County. NEWSFLASH TO THE REPUBLICANS IN GEORGIA AND SOUTH CAROLINA: If Newt gets the nomination, the election is over. If Santorum gets the nomination, the election is over. Romney may not be the next president, or the greatest guy in the world, but he is the ONLY chance the republicans have. He is well funded and is a good businessman and wall street likes him. Georgians and South Carolinians cast off your old tired ethics (COYOTE) and follow Florida's lead and get behind Mitt. Mitt actually won in Fulton County.

Bonkk 03/11/12 - 05:09 pm
Ms. Jasper: Great article and

Ms. Jasper: Great article and a good piece of writing on your part. Your final paragraph hit the point and was spot on. So with that in mind, I would like to give the evangelicals out there a little assignment: Please write me a 10 page article on "Deism". Evangelicals, when you do your research, you will find that our founding fathers (Jefferson, Washington, Madison and Franklin) were Deists and did not believe in the same nonsense that you do.

Bonkk 03/12/12 - 03:04 am
Hey Charlie, thanks for your

Hey Charlie, thanks for your comment! And I really wish that all the so called xians out there would just for once read Mr. Jefferson's bible. I'm talking about Thomas, used to live in Charlottesville and has somewhat of a famous house there. He put a razor blade to the new testament and cut out all the magic tricks. No people coming back to life after they were dead, no changing water into wine (presto chango), no feeding 4 or 5 thousand people with a couple of fish and a few slices of bread, etc. What Mr. Jefferson presented us with was a small pamphlet, but it tells us about Jesus as a really good man and someone that I can get behind and believe in.

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