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Poll: Most Republicans don't know Rick Santorum is Catholic

March 14, 2012|By David Lauter
  • Rick Santorum holds up a proclamation naming him an "honorary cajun," presented by Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel at the GOP presidential candidate's primary-night watch party Tuesday in Lafayette, La.
Rick Santorum holds up a proclamation naming him an "honorary cajun,"… (Gerald Herbert / Associated…)

Rick Santorum won the lion's share of voters in Tuesday's presidential primaries in Alabama and Mississippi who said it was very important to them that the Republican candidate share their religious beliefs.

Except the leading candidates don't, at least not in traditional terms.

Santorum, like Newt Gingrich, is a Catholic; the vast majority of Republican voters in both of the two Deep South states are evangelical Protestants. Once, not that many years ago, such differences mattered greatly. Now voters seem focused much more on beliefs as they affect public policy than on matters of creed.

Or maybe what appears to be indifference reflects lack of knowledge.

A new poll by the Pew Research Center asked voters what they knew of a candidate's religion. Only about a third of Republican and Republican-leaning respondents correctly identified Santorum as Catholic. Republican white, evangelical Christians were as likely to identify Santorum as one of them as they were to identify him as Catholic (about one-third in either case).

Respondents were much more likely to know that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. About two-thirds of Republican respondents correctly identified Romney's religion.

A significant number of evangelical Protestants do not consider Mormonism to be a Christian faith, and pollsters believe that some percentage of evangelical voters are reluctant to vote for a Mormon. The size of that factor is difficult to gauge in part because the same voters who might reject Romney because of his religion also tend to be conservatives who mistrust his ideology.

david.lauter@latimes.com

Poll: Most Republicans don't know Rick Santorum is Catholic

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