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SC exit polls show Gingrich won evangelical votes

by Brad A. Greenberg

January 22, 2012 | 2:38 pm

Newt Gingrich speaks to supporters at his SC primary election night rally in Columbia, Jan. 21. Photo by REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Still wondering about evangelicals in the South Carolina primary? The New York Times has the exit poll stats and shows the breakdown of how Newt Gingrich closed a massive gap. Evangelicals played a big role.

Nearly two-thirds of the voters described themselves as evangelical or born-again Christian. In 2008, 60 percent had indicated they were evangelical or born-again Christians. Mr. Gingrich was backed by about 40 percent of these voters; about a fifth of them voted for Mr. Romney. Although Rick Santorum was endorsed by a group of evangelical leaders in Texas, he received only a fifth of the votes from evangelical Christians.

Six in 10 voters said it was important that a candidate shared their religious beliefs, and nearly half of them backed Mr. Gingrich, who has converted to Catholicism; about a fifth went for Mr. Romney, a Mormon; and nearly the same for Mr. Santorum, also a Catholic. In 2008, Mr. Romney came in third in the Republican primary, when Senator John McCain placed first and Mike Huckabee came in second.

I find it both surprising that Gingrich carried the evangelical vote and significant that Gingrich did much better with evangelicals than Mitt Romney—grabbing about as many as Romney and Rick Santorum combined. Sadly, maybe it’s not surprising that Romney did so poorly with evangelicals ...

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