A new survey of the five states that will hold caucuses or primaries prior to February's "Tsunami Tuesday" indicates the so-called "religious right" is a shrinking force among Republicans who say they will vote in their states' presidential primaries.
The poll offered significant indications that the new makeup of Republican voters is no longer that of a party dominated by social- or religious-based voters.
Last year, incumbent Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, who was viewed by most as a moderate conservative, drubbed former Alabama Justice Roy Moore, who championed the cause of keeping the 10 Commandments at an Alabama courthouse.
In Georgia, former Christian Coalition national director Ralph Reed was solidly defeated in a bid for his state's nomination for lieutenant governor. In fact, Georgia's true Christian Coalition actually disbanded and regrouped under a different name.
Throughout the so-called Bible Belt, GOP voters were showing a strong inkling that while they may be intensely religious, they aren't as interested in mixing politics and personal religious beliefs as some pundits might think.
Here is the rundown of the new polls. Our InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion survey of each of the states had at least 700-plus respondents. In most states, the number was well over 1,000, meaning the margin of error for each of the polls was a very tight plus-or-minus 3 percentage points. Each poll interviewed likely Republican voters and was weighted for age, race and gender.
Our survey asked likely Republican presidential primary voters in these critical early states if, in their political philosophy, they are primarily:
A conservative based on religious-based or related considerations
A conservative in general
A moderate conservative
In every state, the vast majority of voters described themselves as being somewhere between "general conservative" to "moderate." In fact, in both New Hampshire and Michigan, nearly half of those who responded said they were either "moderate conservative" or "conservative."
Here are the percentages, by state, of those Republicans who said their own political philosophy was "primarily religious-based conservative": Florida, 28 percent; South Carolina, 38 percent; Michigan, 27 percent; New Hampshire, 17 percent; Iowa, 35 percent.
There is a clear pattern here. Almost all of these percentages for each state were either below or equal to President Bush's national approval rating. That's not to suggest there is a direct correlation. Rather, it places into perspective just how much less significant this particular sector of the GOP is now than it was in past election cycles.