Block voting has interested me a lot this election season. Particularly of interest is Romney’s support from Mormons (historically, an extremely conservative voting bloc) and Huckabee’s support of Evangelicals (historically, a relatively conservative voting bloc). In order to do a theoretical analysis, I used data from two sources.
First, for historical election and 2008 primary voting data I used Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections at http://www.uselectionatlas.org/. This website is great in giving enormous amounts of data about past and current elections.
Second, for the religious data I used numbers from the Association of Religious Data Archive at http://www.thearda.com/. An issue does arise in looking at these two blocks of voters. Namely, Mormons are a well defined religious denomination. There is very little debate about who is a Mormon. Evangelicals on the other hand are not a defined religious denomination but a subset of Christianity that includes members of several denominations (although not necessarily entire denominations). Therefore defining who is an Evangelical poses a problem. The ARDA takes a denominational approach.
I wanted to determine answers to a few questions. 1) What are the voting habits of the block in comparison to the rest of the population? 2) What influence does the block have on the outcome of the election? 3) Was Romney’s support primarily because of the Mormon factor?
To begin I chose one heavily Mormon state (Utah – 66.45%) and two Evangelical states (Alabama – 40.59% and Oklahoma – 41.49%) to develop a baseline. Arkansas has a higher percentage of Evangelicals, however since it was the home state of Huckabee I elected to exclude it. Some may argue that based on this I should exclude Utah (since Romney lived there while running the Olympics), unfortunately, there isn’t another state that is as heavily Mormon (Idaho is next with 24.07%).
For each state, I determined what the non-block vote would theoretically be by assuming that the states bordering them would vote similar to the non-block population. Admittedly, this is more accurate for the Mormon block since the states surrounding Utah have a much smaller non-Mormon population. The states surrounding Alabama and Oklahoma have less of an Evangelical population, but still a significant percentage of Evangelicals.
I used Presidential election returns from 2000 and 2004 to develop a baseline. The non-block vote (Other) was compared with the Total returns for those years to obtain the block vote that would result in those returns.
Utah - Other
Utah - Total
Utah - Mormon
Evangelical Voting - Alabama
Alabama - Other
Alabama - Total
Alabama - Evangelical
Evangelical Voting - Oklahoma
Oklahoma - Other
Oklahoma - Total
Oklahoma - Evangelical
R is the percent that voted for the Republican Candidate, D is the percent that voted for the Democratic Candidate, VAP is the percent of the voting age population who voted, and REG is the percent of registered voters who voted.
From these numbers, I conclude that Mormons are slightly more conservative than Evangelicals as a whole, but that they are also slightly less likely to vote than non-Mormons.
With this information I looked at the 2008 primary returns for Utah, Alabama, and Oklahoma. I ran various scenarios of support for Romney and Huckabee with differing amounts of the block turnout. The following is what I found:
1) Even if Mormons turned out in massive numbers in Utah (90% to 10%) and supported Romney by a substantial margin (95%), for Romney to win 90% of the vote, he still would need 56% support from non-Mormons. This was echoed in the CNN exit poll.
2) With 60% Evangelical turnout (as in Iowa) and 50% of Evangelicals supporting Huckabee (as in Iowa), Huckabee would need the support of 26% of the other voters in Alabama and 9% of the other voters in Oklahoma to match his returns there.
From this then I can conclude a few things. Romney’s support is not primarily based on Mormon voters. There are enough non-Mormon voters to have given him the win in Utah, and there aren’t enough Mormon voters in other states to explain the support in other states (this is further supported by exit polls which show that Romney did have the support of a significant amount of Evangelicals and Catholics). Huckabee on the other hand had a majority of his support from Evangelicals, although exit polls do show that he did get support from other block groups. This is also evident from his wins in the South, Kansas, and Iowa which had significant Evangelical turnout according to exit polls.
One thing I have seen often mentioned on the blogs is the Mormon vote in states outside of Utah (particularly Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, California, and Florida). So I decided to create a swing factor which is a product of the % registered to vote, the percent of dominant political party, and the percent of the block in the state.
An election would need to have a margin less than the Swing Factor for the block to have any real political clout. All of the primary/caucus margins were greater than the swing factor for these states; so, in essence, the Mormon vote (as a block) was not a deciding factor in any primary/caucus. There simply are not enough Mormons in other states even if we assume they are all Republican and that they all show up to vote to influence the elections by themselves. An interesting note, with the Florida swing factor of 0.24%, this means that during the 2000 election, there was enough Mormon clout to swing the election to Gore. However, based on the fact that Utah (ergo Mormons) overwhelmingly voted for Bush in that year, that would have been a near impossibility (besides if Mormons were for Gore, then Utah would have voted for Gore and the whole Florida mess would have been moot).