Politics / CAMPAIGN 2012
Eight Takeaways From Early-State Presidential Primary Polls
5. The same patterns hold when looking at voters' religious beliefs. Continuing the dynamic from the 2008 race, Romney consistently faces more difficulty among evangelical Christians than other voters. In Florida, Iowa and South Carolina the new polls show Romney running much more strongly among voters who do not identify as born-again Christians than those who do. (In New Hampshire, the sample did not provide enough born-again Christians to measure). In each of the three states with enough born-again voters to measure, Romney drew the same 19 percent of their support, almost identical to the 20 percent he won among self-identified evangelical in the cumulative 2008 GOP primary exit poll analyzed by ABC News. Once again, Cain leads Romney among born-again Christians in Florida, Iowa and South Carolina, though generally by modest margins. Romney in turn holds bigger leads in all four states over Cain among the voters who do not consider themselves born again: he leads among those voters by 34-13 in Florida; 29-19 in Iowa, 40-14 in New Hampshire and 34-16 in South Carolina. Still, Romney's difficulties with born-again Christians explain why his overall advantage in Iowa and South Carolina (three and two percentage points respectively) is so much narrower than in the surveys in New Hampshire and Florida. 6. Cain appears to be scrambling a third potential fault line in the GOP race, the polls suggest. Continuing another pattern from 2008, Romney in each state attracts between four or five percentage points more support among voters with at least a four year degree than those without one. But Cain also runs better among voters with a college degree than those without one-with the gap being greater in most states than the difference for Romney. The result is that Romney, who struggled somewhat with non-college voters in 2008, leads Cain among voters without a college education in each of the four states, while trailing him among college-educated voters in South Carolina and running only about even with him among them in Iowa. 7. Texas Gov. Rick Perry appears to be attempting to restart his campaign almost from scratch. He attracts no more than 11 percent overall in any of the four states; even more revealing is his poor showing among both evangelical Christians and Tea Party supporters-voters who should represent his base. Perry now is drawing only 15 percent of Tea Party supporters in South Carolina, 11 percent in Florida, and single digits in Iowa and New Hampshire. In each state except South Carolina, Perry trails not only Cain and Romney among Tea Party supporters, but also Gingrich. He is showing somewhat more life among evangelical Christians, attracting 14 percent in Florida and 16 percent in South Carolina. But he dropped to just nine percent among those voters in Iowa, the survey found. Unless he can improve those numbers, and find a way to win Iowa, he may find it impossible to truly resuscitate his campaign in any other state. 8. All of these trends may change when the candidates launch full-scale television advertising campaigns in the early states. And once voters actually start casting ballots, the results of each contest can rapidly scramble the patterns of support in those that follow it on the calendar. But for now these polls show that while the overlapping circle of Tea Party activists and evangelical Christians remain dubious of Romney, they do not yet appear to be coalescing in a way that could deny him the nomination.