Born-again Christians dominate GOP vote in Alabama, Mississippi

A voter at this Madison, Miss., precinct looks over the choices for GOP presidential nominee, Tuesday, March 13, 2012. Mississippi and Alabama hold primaries today and their results could clarify the GOP presidential nomination race. The ballot, which has the names of former candidates listed among the active ones, was prepared some time ago. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

WASHINGTON (AP) — White born-again and evangelical Christians were dominating Alabama’s and Mississippi’s Republican presidential primaries on Tuesday, showing up in numbers unsurpassed by any state where voters have been polled so far this year, according to preliminary results of exit polls of voters.

Around 8 in 10 Mississippians participating in Tuesday’s contest were white evangelical or born-again Christians, the largest share measured in any state so far. Those same voters accounted for nearly three-quarters of those surveyed in Alabama, a proportion reached previously only in Tennessee and Oklahoma.

People in the two Deep South states were also strongly conservative, though they were not the most conservative to have cast ballots in presidential contests this year. Around 7 in 10 in both states considered themselves conservative, including about 4 in 10 who said they are very conservative — proportions that have been matched or exceeded by several other states.

As in every state so far, the economy was the top issue on peoples’ minds, with just over half in each state naming it as their foremost concern.

And around 4 in 10 in both states cited the ability to defeat President Barack Obama in the November election as their main concern for selecting a candidate.

The surveys of voters in Alabama’s and Mississippi’s GOP presidential primaries were conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from 1,024 Alabama voters interviewed Tuesday as they left their polling places at 30 randomly selected sites, and from 1,102 Mississippi voters as they left 30 polling places. Each survey had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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