The Story: A new analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life based on results from the National Election Pool exit polls finds that President Obama lost ground among white evangelical Protestants and white Catholics, compared with 2008. But the basic religious contours of the 2012 electorate are similar to recent elections.
The Background: According to the Pew analysis, traditionally Republican groups such as white evangelicals and weekly churchgoers strongly backed Mitt Romney, while traditionally Democratic groups such as black Protestants, Hispanic Catholics, Jews, and the religiously unaffiliated backed Obama by large margins. Mormon voters were firmly in Romney’s corner, with 78% voting for him. Catholics as a whole were evenly divided (50% voted for Obama and 48% backed Romney), while white Catholics swung strongly in the Republican direction relative to 2008.
The Takeaways: Some of the more interesting findings from the survey include:
• Nearly eight-in-ten white evangelicals voted for Romney (79%), compared with 20% who backed Obama.
• Romney received as much support from evangelical voters as George W. Bush did in 2004 (79%) and more support from evangelicals than McCain did in 2008 (73%).
• Among white mainline Protestants in the exit poll, 54% voted for Romney, while 44% supported Obama.
• Nearly six-in-ten white Catholics (59%) voted for Romney, up from 52% who voted for McCain in 2008.
• Three-quarters of Hispanic Catholics voted for Obama, and Catholics as a whole were evenly divided in 2012 (50% voted for Obama, while 48% backed Romney).
• Nearly six-in-ten voters who say they attend religious services at least once a week voted for Romney (59%), while 39% backed Obama.
• More than six-in-ten voters who say they never attend religious services voted for Obama (62%). Voters who say they attend religious services a few times a month or a few times a year also supported Obama over Romney by a 55% to 43% margin.