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Silver Lining for Clinton: Evangelical Support

By Michelle Boorstein and Jacqueline L. Salmon
Hillary Clinton lost to Barack Obama by sizable margins in all three contests yesterday, but one number out this week does break in her favor. According to a new poll, the quarter of white evangelicals who identify as Democrats overwhelmingly support Clinton.

Or at least that was true in Super Tuesday's primary races in Missouri and Tennessee, two states with large white evangelical populations. Researchers of religion and U.S. politics say the poll is the first bit of data on how white evangelical Democrats are voting this presidential season.

The story behind the poll is as interesting as the results. It was done by Zogby International and commissioned by two progressive groups livid that thus far the main exit polls haven't asked Democratic primary voters if they are evangelical. Faith in Public Life and the Center for American Progress, among other groups, have been complaining since primary season began that exit pollsters -- commissioned and paid for by several major U.S. media organizations -- are ignoring efforts made in recent years by religious liberals to reach out to evangelicals.

So on Super Tuesday, Zogby polled about 800 primary voters in Missouri and Tennessee. The poll found white evangelical Democrats going about 54 percent to 37 percent for the New York senator in Missouri and 78-12 for her in Tennessee. White Democrats overall went 57-39 for Clinton in Missouri and 67-26 in Tennessee. The margin of error was plus or minus 10 points.

In announcing the poll's results this week, the Rev. Jim Wallis, a progressive evangelical, said pollsters and media groups were operating with an "outdated script."

However, because there is no similar polling information from previous primary races, it's impossible to say whether the white evangelical vote is changing.

In the latest Post-ABC national poll, about a quarter of white evangelical Protestants identified as Democrats; about half thought of themselves as closer to the GOP.

By Washington Post editors  |  February 13, 2008; 2:08 PM ET
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