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Friday, February 3, 2012

The Mormon Vote in Nevada's GOP Caucuses

Mitt Romney most likely will have a strong foundation of assured votes in Saturday’s Nevada Republican caucuses if this year’s voting patterns duplicate those in 2008. In that year, the Romney campaign was able to get a very disproportionate number of Mormon Republicans to turn out at the caucuses -- at what looks like about two and a half times their representation in the overall Republican population in Nevada. There is no reason to believe that they will not try to duplicate that feat this year.

Although there is a Super Bowl going on this weekend, for political junkies, of course, the relevant action will be in Nevada. Mitt Romney will be trying on his newly re-acquired front-runner status among Nevada’s GOP caucus goers. There are few recent polls of caucus goers in the state, but those that exist seem to point to a Romney win.

Caucuses are an interesting way to assess voter preferences.  A Feb. 3 New York Times article headlines the criticism that caucuses are, in fact, not very democratic. That's in part because they have widely varying procedural rules, but also because caucuses usually involve a very small percentage of the population of a state's eligible voters. According to a review by Mark Blumenthal on Huffington Post’s pollster site, less than 3% of eligible voters turned out in the 2008 Nevada caucuses.

That’s where the Mormon vote comes in. According to “entrance polls” (voters were asked questions as they entered the caucus sites) of voters in Nevada’s 2008 GOP caucuses, 26% of those who participated were Mormons. Not surprisingly, the data show that 95% of these Mormon caucus participants voted for their fellow Mormon Mitt Romney.

That 26% figure is important because, by our calculations at Gallup, 5.6% of the adult population in Nevada is Mormon. Mormons are highly likely to be Republicans, so we find that about 10% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in Nevada are Mormons, and 9% of basic Republicans are Mormon. This is based on a combined sample of 5,862 Nevadans Gallup interviewed in 2009 and 2010.

This means that Mormon Republicans in 2008, apparently, turned out to participate in the GOP caucuses at about two and a half times their population representation. Had turnout been roughly proportionate to the underlying population of Republicans in Nevada, about 10% of the caucus goers would have been Mormon. The entrance polls, as noted, suggests that it was in reality about a quarter.

These data certainly suggest that Romney’s campaign team was very successful in activating and/or persuading the Mormon population in Nevada to show up at the caucuses four years ago. If they do the same this year, Romney will have a built-in cushion of support in Saturday’s voting.

It's important to note that Romney would have won in 2008 without the strong Mormon representation. The entrance poll data showed that he won at least a plurality of the vote of every religious group participating, except for those who said they had no religious identity, and those were just 7% of the GOP caucus-going population. But Romney won by more than 50% in 2008, which was symbolically important. I’m sure that he and his campaign strategists would like to show the world a similarly powerful margin this year as well.


Anonymous said...
February 5, 2012 at 2:05 PM  

When will today's update on the GOP nationwide tracking be released, please?

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