Early entrance polls show evangelical Christians making up a majority of Republican caucus-goers in Iowa, similar to 2008, when 60 percent of caucus-goers were evangelicals and helped turn the tide in favor of Mike Huckabee. This year, though, evangelicals are less united behind any of the GOP contenders.
(Some pre-election polls anticipated lower turnout among evangelical Christians this year.)
Several candidates run stronger among evangelical Christians than among non-evangelicals. But unlike 2008, when Huckabee ran away with 46 percent of the evangelical vote, early results show no candidate earning more support from more than than three in 10 born-again Christians.
Rick Santorum leads among evangelicals so far, with about three in 10 backing him. Ron Paul follows with roughly 20 percent evangelical support; Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Paul all score in the low-to-mid teens. As in 2008, Romney performs markedly worse among evangelicals than other voters, winning more than double his support among non-evangelicals versus evangelical Christians.
Social issues generally appear to be of relatively low importance to caucus-goers this year, but those who prioritize them side with Santorum. About one in eight caucus-goers picked abortion as the most important issue facing the country, and Santorum is winning more than half of this group. Santorum also performed particularly well among caucus-goers who sought a candidate with “strong moral character.”
Paul performs especially well among young evangelicals, winning more than three in 10 of evangelicals aged 17 to 44, near Santorum’s level. This mirrors Paul’s exceptionally strong numbers among young Republicans overall. Older evangelicals split more evenly among the contenders, with Santorum holding a modest lead over Paul, Romney, Gingrich, and Perry.
These are preliminary results from the Republican caucus poll of voters as they entered 40 randomly selected caucus voting places in Iowa on Jan. 3, 2012. The poll was conducted by Edison Media Research for National Election Pool, The Washington Post and other media organizations. The results for typical characteristics have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.