(RNS) — Sen. Amy Klobuchar may have come in third in the New Hampshire Democratic primary on Tuesday (Feb. 11), but the Minnesota native managed to best her competitors among at least one group: voters who regularly attend religious services.
On Wednesday, CNN exit polls from the New Hampshire contest showed Klobuchar, who attends a United Church of Christ congregation, claiming support from 28% of voters who said they show up to worship services once a week or more. Her Democratic rival Pete Buttigieg, an Episcopalian who has made religious rhetoric and faith outreach a fixture of his campaign, placed second in the overall vote count Tuesday but fell far behind Klobuchar among a group he has worked hard to woo, winning just 16% of the vote among this segment of the religious faithful.
However, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, did win among voters who attend services “occasionally,” boasting 26%. Klobuchar garnered 23%.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish but “not actively involved in organized religion,” eked out a narrow victory over Buttigieg and Klobuchar overall in New Hampshire and also won over a very different group: He garnered support from 34% of voters who never attend religious services. Buttigieg was a distant second with 22%.
Sanders’ popularity with those who do not attend worship arguably holds more weight in the Granite State; according to Pew Research’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, New Hampshire is one of the least religious states in the country.
Meanwhile, the source of the surge in religious support for Klobuchar is unclear, although it follows a successful debate performance and a rash of news coverage regarding Democratic candidates who were asked whether there was room in the party for voters who oppose abortion. Sanders and Buttigieg both suggested that fervent support for abortion rights was a key value among Democrats, but Klobuchar argued differently.
“There are pro-life Democrats, and they are part of our party, and I think we need to build a big tent,” she said during an appearance on the television show “The View” on Monday morning. “I think we need to bring people in instead of shutting them out.”
Updated exit polls on Thursday morning showed Klobuchar won an even larger share of weekly worshipers — boasting 30% to Buttigieg’s 20%. Buttigieg held on to his lead among those who attend worship occasionally (24%), Sanders took second place with the group (23%) and Klobuchar was in third (22%). Sanders’ numbers dropped slightly among those who never attend worship (31%) but still retained a plurality of their support, with Buttigieg ticking up a point to 23%.