WASHINGTON (BP) — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney leads President Obama by 53 points among white evangelicals, an advantage that is far ahead of where John McCain stood among that group at this stage in the race four years ago, according to a new Pew poll.
The new poll was released the same week that Liberty University, an evangelical school, announced that Romney would speak at its graduation ceremony May 12.
Pew does not release data showing where evangelicals of all races stand.
The survey, released April 17, shows Romney leading Obama by a margin of 73-20 percent among white evangelical voters who are registered — larger than the 36-point lead (61-25) McCain held in a Pew poll in June 2008 when Obama clinched the Democratic nomination and voters knew for certain who would be the two nominees. Romney’s chief GOP opponent, Rick Santorum, dropped out in early April.
McCain went on in November 2008 to win white evangelicals by 50 points (74-24 percent), according to exit polls, but that margin is still smaller than Romney’s current lead. In 2004, President Bush won that key constituency by 57 points (78-21 percent), according to exit polls.
Even though Bush won white evangelicals by 57 points in 2004, his lead was much smaller in the months leading up to November. In June 2004, Bush led Democratic nominee John Kerry by 43 points (69-26) among white evangelicals, and in June 2000, Bush led Democratic nominee Al Gore by 37 points (65-28) among that group, according to Pew.
The April 4-15 survey was based on interviews with 2,373 registered voters.
Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said it would be Romney’s first appearance on campus.
“This will be a historic event for Liberty University reminiscent of the visits of governor, and then presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan to Liberty’s campus in 1980 and of President George H.W. Bush who spoke at Liberty’s 1990 Commencement ceremony,” Falwell said.
McCain delivered a graduation speech at Liberty in 2006.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).