The New England Way

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What stands out re: religion in the New Hampshire exit polls is the revelation that Republican primary voters who described themselves as “a born-again or evangelical Christian” divided evenly for McCain (28 percent), Romney (27 percent), and Huckabee (28 percent). That Huckabee should have gotten just over one-quarter of them, as opposed to nearly a half in Iowa–and that Romney should have polled about as well among them as he did in the rest of the population–says a lot about what makes New England different. To put it simply, New Englanders tend to rebel against using religion as a criterion for voting. As my colleague Andrew Walsh emphasizes, this attitude derives from the region’s long history of Irish-Yankee conflict, out of which came a recognition that conducting electoral politics on overtly sectarian lines was not a good thing. To be sure, New Hampshire’s evangelicals disproportionately threw their votes to Brother Mike. But they did not punish Romney for his Mormonism. Indeed, they were more likely than the rest of the electorate to vote for Mitt than for the Episcopalian John McCain.