Approximately eight in 10 voters in today’s Alabama and Mississippi presidential primaries identify themselves as evangelical Christians, according to preliminary exit polls, the highest percentage of evangelicals in any early voting state to date.
In Mississippi, 83 percent of the electorate describes themselves as evangelicals while in Alabama that number is 79 percent. These numbers are from early exit polling and could, of course, shift somewhat.
The high number of evangelicals Christians is not unexpected that the two southern states sit right in the heart of the so-called Bible Belt. Other Southern states that have already voted in the 2012 GOP race have similar number of evangelicals.
In Tennessee, 76 percent of the electorate described themselves as born again while 74 percent said the same in Oklahoma and 68 percent of Georgia voters described themselves as evangelicals. The lowest percentage of evangelicals in a Southern state came, interestingly, in South Carolina where just two in three voters called themselves born again.
Thanks to the crack Washington Post polling team — make sure to follow them on Twitter @postpolls — here’s a chart detailing the percentage of the vote evangelicals have accounted for in the major states to vote so far.
Because most evangelicals in the South are Baptists, it’s not entirely clear who the large number of born-again voters favors. (Romney is Mormon while both Gingrich and Santorum are Catholics.)
Evangelicals have tended to favor Santorum and Gingrich in previous states; Santorum won evangelicals by 18 points over Gingrich in Tennessee while Gingrich topped Santorum among born agains in Georgia. Romney has yet to win a state where the evangelical portion of the vote has been over 50 percent.