Evangelicals largely for Romney, new poll shows
May 10th, 2012
11:55 AM ET
3 years ago

Evangelicals largely for Romney, new poll shows

(CNN) – Despite primary struggles with evangelical voters evidenced by losses in southern Bible Belt states, Mitt Romney has a large lead over President Barack Obama among white evangelical voters, a poll released Thursday showed.

The Public Religion Research Institute poll showed Obama carrying Catholic and mainline Protestant voters, as well as voters who did not identify a particular denomination.

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Romney's lead among white evangelicals was nearly 50 percentage points, as 68% chose him and 19% chose Obama in the survey.

In several Bible Belt primary states, Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stumbled among evangelical voters, who split their support for Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, both Catholics. Santorum was known for the central place social issues took on his platform and in his campaign pitches.

Over half of those surveyed said it was not "important for a presidential candidate to share their religious beliefs," but two in three white evangelical voters said shared beliefs were important or very important.

Although voters overall downplay the importance of religion in their candidate choices, the survey's authors pointed to a "strong correlation between similarity of candidates' religious beliefs and voting preference." Each candidate leads among voters who believe the other candidate's religious views are different from her own.

An exception to that is among the white evangelicals surveyed: 67% of those who said that Romney's Mormon faith is different from their own still supported him over Obama.

Romney will have an opportunity to address the gap this Saturday, when he delivers the commencement address at the evangelical Liberty University.

Obama's Wednesday announcement that he supports same-sex marriage could deepen the evangelical disapproval of Obama, who had originally expressed opposition to marriage, but supported same-sex unions. "I was sensitive to the fact that - for a lot of people - that the word marriage is something that provokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs," he said in the Wednesday announcement.

The poll was completed prior to Obama's announcement, but included interviews conducted on the day when Vice President Joe Biden said he favored same-sex marriage.

The issue may not matter among voters overall, though, as polls show it holding low importance to the electorate, which is nearly evenly split on the issue.

Obama's advantage among Catholic and Protestant voters was less pronounced than Romney's lead among evangelical voters. Obama carried Catholics 46% to 39% and mainline Protestants 50% to 37%, the survey said.

It showed him having a larger advantage among those who did not identify with a denomination, by a 57% to 22% margin.

The PRRI pollster, Robert Jones, said the evangelical vote may be out of Obama's reach.

“The evangelical community has been tough for Democrats for recent history," he said. "They supported McCain, they supported Bush – they are heavily Republican leaning. It is a tough rode for any democratic candidate.”

As the GOP transitioned from primary to general election focus, some social conservatives and evangelical leaders moved to embrace Romney and dispel questions about his faith, such as prominent pastor Joel Osteen, who told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in April, "Mormonism is a little different, but I still see them as brothers in Christ."

The endorsement of former rival Republican candidates Santorum and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann may also help Romney to shore up the demographic.

Others, like Southern Baptist Convention public policy chief Richard Land, have pointed to Romney's faith as a liability in the general election.

But despite these discussions of the candidates' faith, the survey shows voters' knowledge of Obama and Romney's religion is largely unchanged since an October poll. Just over a third of voters identify Obama as a Protestant, and 51% of voters identify Romney as Mormon.

The survey was conducted with 1,006 people by phone between May 2 and May 6, with a sampling error of no more than plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

- CNN's Dan Merica contributed to this report


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • President Obama • Religion • Same-sex marriage
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    I thought they always supported Republicans no matter what, even if they tell whoppers like Romney has done.

    May 10, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  2. Holly in CA

    After Obama's big announcement yesterday how could any Evangelical vote for him?

    May 10, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  3. dreamer96

    The Religious Conservatives gave us prohibition.....We don't need the Religious conservatives telling all American's how to live....The conservatives have launched a War on Women, and want to put them in a second class citizen position, controlled by the men..The party of pro-life, that stops caring about those babies right after they are born...After birth it's everyone for themselves..Not very Jesus like at all..

    May 10, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  4. Independant Texan

    Southern Baptists call the Mormon religion "a cult". ----- Aren`t all religions- "cults"???? Look up the definition.

    May 10, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "Mitt Romney has a large lead over President Barack Obama among white evangelical voters"

    LOL. Yeah, whatever. I'll be filing this one under "sun goes up, sun goes down."

    May 10, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  6. Namejkane fl live from teapublican moon base no taxes, no regulation no health care, free gas.

    Who cares if the religious freaks vote for the cult member romney and the republican bafoons , go romnycare!!!!

    May 10, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. Independant Texan

    White evangelicals are largely from the Bible Belt and prejudice towards Blacks lies just beneath the surface everywhere, although they will strongly deny the fact.

    May 10, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  8. manhandler1

    If i were running for office, I would publicly ask these nasty Evangelicas NOT to support me. I wouldn't want any of their agenda of hate rubbing off on me.

    May 10, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  9. Myviewis

    So choosing a President is becoming about non-Christians versus Christians? How about it being about the best, experienced, qualified, knowledgeable person to run our country? How about it being about jobs, businesses, taxes,
    health care, immigration, foreign policy, etc....???????? Just about all of us have exhausted our savings and we are worried about religion versus non-religion? Let's make this about who is best experienced to run our country.

    May 10, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  10. Publius Novus

    Anyone surprised by this news hasn't been paying attention. Evangelicals will support any Republican, no matter how many times they are divorced (Ford, Reagan, Gingrich, Guiliani, etc.), convicted (Bakker, Colson), rehabilitated (Limbaugh, Bakker, Gingrich), exposed in affairs or frequenting prostitutes (Coates, Hyde, Gingrich, Vitters), or caught lying (all of the above, plus Romney). But there is condemnation and h- to pay for Democrats (Spitzer, Clinton, Edwards, Hart, Kennedy). Why do you think?

    May 10, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  11. sonny chapman

    Christians, followers fo the Teachings of Jesus Christ, say about Homosexuality in the Four Gospels ? NOTHING. I know what Levi said in the Old Testament & I know what St. Paul, an ultra Othodox Jew, a Pharisee, thought. But the Main Man, JC, never called out Homosexuals. His entire message is: Love your fellow man as the Father loves you.

    May 10, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  12. Expat American

    ....The same people who are 100% behind Perry/Palin/Bachmann too.....

    May 10, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  13. bermille

    I'm surprised at the nineteen percent in favor of Obama. Must have been taken before the announcement he supports gay marriage.

    May 10, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  14. PJ/TX

    "two in three white evangelical voters said shared beliefs were important or very important".
    "Yet 67% of white evangelicals who said Romney's faith was different from their own still supported him over
    Obama".
    Those two statements are contradictory, unless they are saying that their hate overrides their beliefs, and
    those beliefs are not really "very important". So the "white evangelicals" are really the 'great pretenders'.

    May 10, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Myviewis asked:

    So choosing a President is becoming about non-Christians versus Christians? How about it being about the best, experienced, qualified, knowledgeable person to run our country?
    ---------------–
    Good questions. The Grand Old Tea Party wants to turn this nation into a plutocracy run by false prophets. The bible thumpers eat it up when capitalists start talking about their Christian values and Christian roots.

    As far as qualifications go, I would rather have someone in charge who can empathize than someone who has lived their entire life inside of a luxurious bubble of their design. "Borrow ten thousand from your parents" so that you can pay for college is what Romney told college students.

    May 10, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. paul

    They probably have money that's all. Or thinking they can be rich like Romney someday.

    May 10, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  17. Dave

    Who cares? The bigoted Bible-thumpers can have him. If I was running, I'd rather not be associated with those clowns.

    May 10, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  18. gr8usa

    Shocking news...zzzzzzzzzzzz

    May 10, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  19. Vince

    I'd be interested in seeing what the poll would find if it also asked for educational background on those who repsonded.

    May 10, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    Independant Texan wrote:

    White evangelicals are largely from the Bible Belt and prejudice towards Blacks lies just beneath the surface everywhere, although they will strongly deny the fact.
    ------------–
    Good Call! In the 1960s they were the southern Democrats [a.k.a. Dixiecrats] who left the party after the Civil Rigthts Act was passed. In the 1980s, they were known as the Reagan Democrats as the christian conservative movement moved out of the southern bible belt. Today, they are simply known as Christian Conservatives who are not associated with any specific region of the country, although the southern bible is still home to the majority.

    May 10, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  21. Al-NY,NY

    Obama's Wednesday announcement that he supports same-sex marriage could deepen the evangelical disapproval of Obama
    ------------

    I say.....who cares? They weren't gonna vote for him anyway and they can go jump in a lake for all I care. Their narrow-minded, selective interpretation of a book drives their lives. And like good little lemmings they'll follow preacher Cletus Billy-Jo-Bob off a cliff if he says so....'cause he speaks the word!!!! Ugh

    May 10, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  22. gg

    i knew they would flip -flop on gods–guess romneys wins

    May 10, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  23. Hammerer

    The truth is that the gay rights issue is a smoke screen to hide obama's record from voters.
    Obama's record can not stand the light of day, it must be hidden in the dark!

    May 10, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  24. Ol' Yeller

    @PJ/TX
    that is exactly what they are saying. the majority of Christians nowadays are really not very Christian. They like to call themselves that and look down their noses at others. When you look at their works though, you will see houses of worship that look like castles... mobey for the buildings, and gyms, and salaries and vehicles.... we might not really need the chunk of change we are paying for food stamps if all these churhes were really doing 'God's work'. They are charlatans and when/if they do go before the Supreme Being, they are going to be in for a very big surprise.

    May 10, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  25. Janine

    I have another name for Evangelicals, but it's not appropriate here. Wish there was an island somewhere that could take all these crazies, then they wouldn't have to deal with anyone who's "different" from them; just too intellectually challenging for them, poor things.

    May 10, 2012 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
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