POLL: Religion Drives Iowa GOP Race, Lifting Huckabee Into the Lead

Other pro-Huckabee groups -- weekly churchgoers, abortion opponents and conservatives overall -- are also more apt than their counterparts to say they're less likely to support a Mormon. So, as noted, are women -- 27 percent less likely, compared with 15 percent of men. National data among Republican and Republican-leaning men and women are almost identical. One reason: Women are about 10 points more likely to be evangelicals.

Looking at the Iowa numbers another way, 41 percent of Huckabee's supporters say they're less likely to support Romney because he's a Mormon. A regression equation finds that being an evangelical is the single most dominant predictor of his support.

As in any low-turnout event, who actually shows up on caucus day will be an important element in the outcome. In this survey, 11 percent of Iowans were identified as likely Republican caucus-goers; actual turnout in past years has been about 5 percent. A further challenge for Romney is that evangelicals can be a motivated, high-turnout group.

Concerns about a Mormon candidate are reflected in national data as well; in an ABC/Post poll last week, 21 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they were less likely to support a Mormon candidate -- down from 30 percent last summer, but essentially matching the current number in Iowa. Again, evangelicals were most apt to say so, and Huckabee's national support among evangelicals has surged, from 13 percent in November to a field-leading 29 percent last week.

Such dynamics are less a factor in New Hampshire, in part because there are far fewer evangelicals there. Evangelical Protestants account for 37 percent of likely caucus-goers in Iowa, and an identical 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters nationally, but just 15 percent in New Hampshire, where Romney has continued to lead.

TONE – Finally, there's a positive note in Iowans' reactions to the campaign. Sixty-six percent of likely Republican caucus-goers say the race has been mostly positive in tone; an additional 29 percent say it's been a mix of positive and negative -- leaving just 3 percent who say it's been mostly a negative campaign. On this, at least, Iowa Democrats feel about the same.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Dec. 13-17, 2007, among a random sample of 501 adults likely to vote in the Iowa Republican caucuses. The results have a 4.5-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

Click here for PDF with charts and full questionnaire.

Click here for more ABC News polls.

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