Evangelical Republicans Drive S.C. Primary

At the polls, values and the economy drive a broadly conservative electorate.

ByABC News
January 19, 2008, 4:12 PM

Jan. 19, 2008 — -- A broadly conservative and majority evangelical electorate is turning out in the Republican primary in South Carolina, with values and the economy on their minds.

Preliminary exit poll results indicate that nearly seven in 10 Republican voters in the state are identifying themselves as conservatives, which is more than in the 2000 primary there, as well as more than in either Michigan or New Hampshire this year. And nearly six in 10 in South Carolina are evangelical Christians.

Independents in these preliminary results account for just about two in 10 voters, down from nearly three in 10 in any of the last three South Carolina GOP primaries.

In a sign of the conservative and evangelical turnout, about seven in 10 in these preliminary results say abortion should be generally illegal; more than said so either in Michigan (62 percent) or in markedly less-conservative New Hampshire (44 percent.)

South Carolina Republicans chiefly are looking for a candidate who shares their values; that's cited as the top attribute by four in 10; closer to a quarter are looking for a mainly straight-talking candidate; about another quarter, one who has the right experience. As in previous primaries, electability ranks far lower than any of these.

On issues, the economy again tops the list, cited by four in 10 as the most important issue in their vote; illegal immigration comes in second, cited by about a quarter of GOP voters. That's much higher than immigration ranked in Michigan last week, where the economy was more dominant.

In a related result, more than half say illegal immigrants should be deported, rather than offered a chance for citizenship or enrolled in a guest-worker program. Deportation was favored by half of Republicans in New Hampshire, and a little less than half in Michigan.

Three in 10 South Carolina Republicans say they decided on their candidate today or in the last three days, similar to what it was in Michigan and Iowa, and a bit lower than in New Hampshire.

One in four South Carolina GOP voters are veterans about the same as in past years. A majority of them were not born in the state.