DALLAS (Reuters) - Exit polls during the U.S. presidential primaries in Missouri and Tennessee last week show the Democratic Party has some support from white evangelicals, a group strongly associated with the Republican Party.
Commissioned by Faith in Public Life, a non-partisan resource center, and conducted by Zogby International during the primaries on February 5, the surveys were the first to ask Democratic voters if they were evangelical or born-again Christians.
The findings reinforce other surveys showing that Republicans still command most of the support of this voting bloc but by no means have a monopoly on its affections.
They also show white evangelical Democrats — like other whites in Missouri and Tennessee — have a decided preference for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama.
Clinton, a New York senator who would be the first woman U.S. president, and Obama, an Illinois senator who would be the first black president, are locked in a close race for the Democratic Party’s nomination to contest November’s election.
In Missouri, the polls showed 34 percent of all white evangelicals who voted took part in the Democratic primary versus 66 percent in the Republican primary.
Evangelicals made up 19 percent of all Democratic voters in Missouri and supported Clinton over Obama by 54 percent to 37 percent, closely mirroring the vote among all whites.
In Tennessee, the polls indicated 32 percent of primary voters who fit this profile were Democratic and accounted for 29 percent of the party’s vote there.
Clinton overwhelmingly won over Tennessee’s evangelical Democrats with 78 percent to only 12 percent for Obama.
Other exit polls taken during the state-by-state presidential nominating contests for both parties have asked only Republican voters about their evangelical affiliation.
This is because white evangelical Protestants comprise a key Republican base who in the past were galvanized to vote by their strong opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage.
Some evangelicals are now seeking a broader Biblical agenda which includes poverty and the environment.
Editing by John O'Callaghan