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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jewish and Mormon Voters: A Tale of Two Very Different Groups

My current analysis of more than 25,000 interviews we have conducted since April 11 shows that the overwhelming majority of Mormons support Mitt Romney for president.

That's not a great shock. After all, Mormons are one of the most Republican groups in America, and this year, for the first time in history, one of the major-party nominees will be Mormon. And Mitt Romney happens to be a Republican.

Still, it is very difficult for most pollsters to routinely measure Mormons' attitudes. That's because Mormons make up only about 2% of the U.S. population, meaning that the typical random sample of 1,000 Americans will yield only about 20 Mormons -- far too few to be able to analyze meaningfully.

But, the very large sample sizes generated by our onging election tracking allow us to accumulate enough Mormon respondents to look at. More specifically, we have 517 self-identified Mormon voters in our sample from the April 11-May 21 time period.

To set the stage, over this entire April 11-May 21 history of our interviewing so far, Obama and Romney are tied right down the middle, 46% to 46%. In fact, my colleague Lydia Saad brought to my attention the fascinating fact that for our latest three-week rolling average, reported here in great detail by many different demographic groups, there are exactly the same number of weighted voters interviewed who support Obama as support Romney -- to be exact, 3,930 supporting each candidate.

Not all Mormons support Romney. To be precise, the data show that while 84% of Mormons support Romney, 13% support Obama. Mormon support for Romney is not as monolithic as is, for example, black support for Obama, which for this same time period is 90% for Obama and 5% for Romney. 

We’ve shown before that Catholics remain roughly evenly split between the two candidates. This is still the case. Protestants as a group, despite the fact that many Obama-leaning blacks are Protestant, support Romney over Obama by 52% to 40%.

What about Jewish voters? They support Obama over Romney by 63% to 28%. This is a somewhat closer margin than what the exit polls reported in the 2008 election, which was 78% for Obama vs. 21% for John McCain. Of course, that estimate is just an estimate. The 2008 exit poll, according to the CNN report, was based on 17,836 interviews. Since Jewish voters were reported as 2% of that, we can estimate that the Jewish percentage in the exit poll sample translated into no more than 400 actual voters interviewed (although that's just my best guess). Our current sample has 610 Jewish voters, which is larger than the exit poll sample. In other words, our sample today may be at least marginally more valid in the sense of representing Jewish voters than the exit poll was in terms of representing Jewish voters at that point.

Obama beat McCain by 7 percentage points in the popular vote in 2008. In our current overall sample, Obama is tied with Romney. So we need to adjust the data some on that basis. In other words, if Obama were leading Romney by 7 points today in our overall sample, we assume that he would be leading by an increase of a little less than that same margin among Jews. Plus, 9% of Jewish voters in our sample are undecided, and if we allocate them mostly to Obama, he gains some more. Bottom line -- the projected vote of our current sample of Jewish voters is probably not too far off from what the exit polls suggested was the case in 2008.

In other words, I don’t see strong evidence of a major change in the Jewish vote so far this year.

Finally, there is the vote of the 13% of voters in our sample who say they have no religious identity. These voters go 65% for Obama and 25% for Romney. And those who identify with a non-Christian religion -- about 2% of the voter population -- go for Obama 75% to 15%, making this Obama’s strongest religious group (Muslims were broken out separately, but the sample size is too small to report).

Basically, Romney does well among Protestants and Mormons, and he ties Obama among Catholics. Obama dominates among every other religious group we measure, including those who don’t have a formal religious identity.

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