March 23, 2012

09RNS: Evangelicals Voting in Record Numbers in GOP Primaries

Evangelicals Voting in Record
Numbers in GOP Primaries

BY DAVID GIBSON                                                                                                            ©2012 Religion News Service
Making up half of Republican primary voters, evangelicals appear to be turning out to support Rick Santorum's campaign in record numbers and are increasingly influencing the shape of the party.
According to the Faith and Freedom Coalition, headed by longtime evangelical political activist Ralph Reed, evangelical Christians account for just over 50 percent of the turnout so far in the Republican primaries, the highest rate ever and a significant increase over the 44 percent evangelical voting rate in 2008.
Moreover, Santorum has won a third of those votes, compared to Mitt Romney's 29.74 percent and Newt Gingrich's 29.65 percent.
Faith and Freedom based its analysis on the entrance and exit polling data from 16 primaries and caucuses. The data show that some 4.29 million evangelical Christian voters have cast ballots so far--or 50.53 percent of the 8.49 million total votes cast.
Reed said the turnout is up across the board, and not just in the South, where conservative Christians helped deliver a two-state primary sweep of Alabama and Mississippi to Santorum on March13.
"Conservative people of faith are playing a larger role in shaping the contours and affecting the trajectory of the Republican presidential nomination contest than at any time since they began pouring out of the pews and into the precincts in the late 1970s," Reed said.