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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 10:36 PM ET, 03/06/2012

Evangelical voters raise Santorum to victory in Tennessee


The Tennessee electorate turned out to be the most evangelical so far in the Republican nomination fight, helping secure a victory for former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.

You can dig deep into the results and sort candidates by their best and worst groups using the Post’s Primary Tracker.

Evangelicals: Seventy-six percent of voters were evangelical Christians in Tennessee, edging out the group’s turnout in Georgia and South Carolina, two states that went to Newt Gingrich. Over four in 10 evangelicals voted for Santorum while about a quarter supported Gingrich and Mitt Romney each.

Religion: More than four in 10 Tennessee voters said it matters a great deal for a candidate to share their own religious beliefs, above the numbers in Georgia or Ohio. Over half of these voters pick Santorum.

Conservatives: Nearly three quarters of voters identified as conservative including 41 percent saying they were “very conservative.” Santorum won this group by 20 points or more over his competitors.

Top Attributes: Electability remains a strong suit for Romney in Tennessee. Nearly four in 10 voters said ability to beat Obama is the most important candidate attribute, and Romney beats out Santorum and Gingrich among these voters. But just as many voters in Tennessee said they are looking for a candidate who is a “true conservative” or someone with strong moral character. These values voters picked Santorum by an overwhelming margin.

Blue collar voters: Santorum was more competitive among Tennessee voters without a college degree and those with household income of less than $50,000, topping Romney by double digits in both groups. Romney and Santorum ran about evenly among wealthier voters in Tennessee and Romney edged him out among college graduates.

Romney’s conservative problem: Nearly half of voters in Tennessee said Romney is not conservative enough, and Santorum topped other candidates by more than 20 points among this group.

These are preliminary results among 2,728 Republican voters as they exited primary voting places in Tennessee on March 6, 2012. The poll also included telephone interviews with Tennesseans who voted early or absentee. The poll was conducted by Edison Media Research for the National Election Pool, The Washington Post and other media organizations.

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By , , and Kristina Meacham  |  10:36 PM ET, 03/06/2012

Categories:  Exit polls, GOP nomination, Voting, Republican Party | Tags:  Super Tuesday, Rick Santorum, Tennessee, Tennessee primary

 
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