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The latest polling by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows that Mitt Romney maintains a substantial lead nationally in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. The survey, conducted Jan. 11-16, finds few differences among GOP voters from various religious groups in terms of the candidate they would most like to see get their party’s nomination.1

During the race for president, a candidate’s religion can make or break them in the eyes of the voter.

Romney’s strongest support in a matchup against Obama continues to come from evangelical voters; three-quarters of evangelicals (76%) say they would vote for Romney, compared with 19% who favor Obama. When this question was asked in November, 70% of white evangelicals expressed support for Romney while 26% favored Obama.

Obama’s strongest support among the religious groups analyzed comes from voters who are religiously unaffiliated; nearly two-thirds of this group (64%) support Obama while 28% prefer Romney. These figures are little changed over the past two months. (The current poll included too few interviews with black Protestant registered voters to permit analysis of their voting intentions.)

Whenever he was asked about the impact of his race on the 2008 election, President Obama would often say that he presumed his race would cost him some votes, and maybe gain him some votes too just like a lot of other characteristics over which he had little control such as how he looked and where he was from. Of course as we all later learned there was another trait President Obama also had little control over that had, and continues to have, the potential to cost him and other candidates even more votes than race: perceived religious beliefs. The fact that 1 in 5 Americans believe President Obama is not a Christian and view that as a justification for questioning his leadership and patriotism represents a political land mine for the President, and increasingly for his 2012 GOP opponent as well.

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