Religion was huge in Iowa, but New Hampshire doesn't want to talk faith
Will religious conservative Rick Santorum connect in New Hampshire?
January 5th, 2012
09:27 AM ET

Religion was huge in Iowa, but New Hampshire doesn't want to talk faith

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - When Kevin Smith took over a New Hampshire Christian advocacy group called Cornerstone Action in 2009, the outfit was so strapped for cash and members that it was in danger of closing down.

So Smith took the group, which is associated with the national evangelical organization Focus on the Family, in a different direction. Instead of just focusing on “family values” causes like opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, as it had been, he began waging campaigns around fiscal matters like reducing taxes and trimming the budget.

The result: The group’s financial support grew tenfold in three years, to $1.2 million, and helped usher Republican supermajorities into the New Hampshire legislature in 2010.

“If we were going to survive we had to have a broader appeal, because of the kind of conservatives that are here,” says Smith, a former aide in the governor’s office who’s now running for governor himself. “Not all of them were with us on social issues.”

Five days before New Hampshire’s Republican primary, Smith’s experience points to a major shifting of gears in the presidential race: While religion played a huge role in the Iowa caucuses - helping fuel Rick Santorum’s last-minute surge there and throwing up hurdles for Mitt Romney, a Mormon - religious faith is not likely to matter much in the Granite State, one of the least religious states in the nation.

That means the candidates will be rejiggering their Iowa-branded messages about faith and family into ones about fiscal matters, like the national debt and the cost of President Barack Obama’s health care plan, before once again dusting off the faith and family rhetoric for the next-in-line South Carolina primary, where evangelicals dominate.

“It’s a big shift of culture from Iowa to New Hampshire, except for the fact that nearly everyone in both states is white,” says Mark Silk, professor of religion in public life at Trinity College in Connecticut. “For Mitt Romney’s campaign it’s ideal, because they don’t want to talk about religion and neither do voters.”

It may also be good news for Ron Paul, a libertarian-leaning candidate who has mostly steered clear of social issues and who finished third in Iowa.

But Santorum may find it hard to translate his socially conservative message to New Hampshire, much as Mike Huckabee did in 2008 after winning the Iowa caucuses. And Newt Gingrich, who worked hard to cultivate Iowa evangelicals, is likely to stress his economic and foreign policy views in New Hampshire.

Rick Perry, meanwhile - the most overtly evangelical candidate left in the presidential race - has signaled he will mostly ignore New Hampshire, tweeting Wednesday: “And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State...Here we come South Carolina!!!”

Evangelical Christians, the Republican voters who care most about hot buttons like abortion, accounted for nearly 60% of caucus-goers in Iowa on Tuesday, helping to carry Santorum to a strong second-place finish.  But they are expected to make up less than a quarter of the vote in New Hampshire next week.

“Even among the evangelical churches that are in the state, they’re not really interested in wanting to be involved in political matters,” says Smith, a Catholic who attends an evangelical-style nondenominational church. “And politicians here would prefer that the churches not to get involved.”

The limited political role of religion helps explain why a slim majority of Republicans who voted in New Hampshire’s last presidential primaries, in 2008, said that abortion should be legal, according to exit polls.

A 2009 Gallup survey found that New Hampshire was the second-least religious state in the country, one of a small handful in which less than 50% of residents said religion is an important part of their daily lives.

“New England and particularly northern New England has a lot of people called ‘nones,’” says Trinity College’s Silk, referring to people who claim no religious affiliation. They account for the fastest growing segment of the American religious landscape.

“Boston was the epicenter of the priest abuse scandal,” Silk says, “and a lot of marginal Catholics have drifted away.”

Catholicism and mainline Protestantism are still the dominate religious modes in New England. But even New Hampshirites who are religious tend to be reluctant to inject their faith into political debates.

“I’m from New Hampshire, and people here are generally people of faith, but they are a lot more private about their religious views,” says Jamie Burnett, a Republican consultant who is unaffiliated with any presidential candidate.

Burnett was New Hampshire political director for the Romney campaign in 2008 and says Romney was asked about his Mormonism just once in his many trips there.

“It’s the kind of thing that comes up a lot in Iowa, not New Hampshire,” says Burnett.

Silk says New Englanders’ public reticence about religion is a result of entrenched Yankee Protestants and more newly arrived Irish Catholics working past religion-based political tensions in the mid-20th century.

“There was a kind of tacit agreement that religion is not going to be part of electoral politics, in light of a history of Yankee and Catholic political fights,” says Silk. “It helps explain why Michael Dukakis and Howard Dean and John Kerry didn’t do a good job talking about religion on the stump.”

And why, in New Hampshire this week, the Republican candidates won’t have to do that kind of stump work.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: New Hampshire • Politics

soundoff (255 Responses)
  1. Iqbal Khan


    January 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  2. gerald


    January 7, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  3. Reality

    Only for the "newbies":<---------------

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Newton Leroy Gingrich, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    (The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.)

    January 7, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • .........

      Hit report abuse on reality repeat bull sh it

      January 7, 2012 at 5:27 am |
  4. HC21

    I was chatting with a friend about this once. (this was actually before most people know of Obama but post 9/11) She said that religion didn't factor into her decision. I asked her "What if the candidate is Muslim? She didn't consider that. She said "no I probably would not be able to vote for a Muslim." With America's sensitivity to Muslims in that time, I can't blame her or anybody else – Chances are small they would have been a candidate, but it's not impossible. I think there are religious factors that people don't consider when asked this question.

    January 6, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    January 6, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Kevin

      Prayer helped that little girl in Wisconsin who died of complications from a treatable disease because her parents, filled with the holy spirit, refused to seek medical help.

      January 6, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • The Old Salt

      Split me the ship master gunner
      Split me her , split her in twain
      Fall into the hands of God
      Not into the hands of Spain

      January 6, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      God receives His own
      And gives grace to the humble
      Prayer resolves all questions
      And leads to the Truth
      Truth properly applied
      Leads to life
      Prayer is the conduit to life

      January 6, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • jersey3038

      Where is your god when the preist is entering the young boy?????

      January 6, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Flawed Logic

      So, you think god is good at scoring touchdowns on Sundays but not helping the innocent children starving to death in Africa? Good point.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      God has given mankind the option to care for each other. The starving in Africa are our responsibility, What are you doing to help? Children are abused by many people in all walks of life, most frequently close family members. People abuse each other in all sorts of ways, that is the sin nature of mankind. What are you doing about your sin? God did something about sin. He provided salvation through Jesus Christ at the cross. Have you joined God to solve the sin problem?

      January 7, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • Mirosal

      if that dead guy jesus doed for our sins, then he took responsibility for them, right? So there should be no more sin. After all, isn't that what that guy died for 2000 years ago?

      January 7, 2012 at 5:40 am |
    • An inconvenient truth

      God does not force obedience on mankind. What was offered on the cross was offered in love and must be accepted and received in love by each individual person. Salvation is not automatic,it is available.

      January 7, 2012 at 5:46 am |
    • Mirosal

      You're still prejudiced and bigoted. What of the 80% of the planet's population who do NOT follow your little book of fables? Are they condemned because they don't follow YOUR views? Yes or No .. are they?

      January 7, 2012 at 5:51 am |
    • David Johnson


      You said: "Prayer helped that little girl in Wisconsin who died of complications from a treatable disease because her parents, filled with the holy spirit, refused to seek medical help."

      Kevin! I am so proud of you! And you are exactly right. Prayer does not work.

      Jesus speaking:

      "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." –Matthew 21:22 (NIV)

      "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." –Matthew 17:20 (NIV)

      "Ask and it will be given to you.... For everyone who asks receives." –Luke 11:9-10 (NIV)

      "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven." –Matthew 18:19 (NIV)

      James 5:15 – And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

      Let's be honest. Don't be afraid to use critical thinking. Jesus said the above, about prayer. Is it true? Can you post back to me and claim what Jesus said is true?

      Why has there never been a doc_umented case of an amputated limb being restored? Do you think an amputee never prayed or had faith?

      Double blind experiments, have all shown that prayer has no effect on illness.

      Because people have believed the promises of the bible, they have withheld medical care for their children. They prayed instead. Evidently, god was not moved by their faith. Their children died. Modern medicine could have saved them. OOoopsie!

      Why aren't Jesus' words true? Can you think of any possibilities? If Jesus' words aren't true about prayer, then how can we depend on anything else Jesus said? Maybe if we could "test" the afterlife claims, they would be no more real than the claims about prayer.

      A fundie once told me, that god always answers prayers in one of three ways:
      1) God says, "yes". You get what you asked for immediately.
      2) God says, "to wait". You will get what you asked for at some future date.
      3) God says, "no". You will not get what you asked for.

      Hmmm.... But I can get the same success from the carton of milk I have sitting on the breakfast table.

      1) If I pray to my magic carton, some things will come true immediately, just by chance and coincidence.
      2) Some things will come true at some future date, for the same reasons.
      3) If I don't get what I want, then my magic carton said, "no".

      I think there is a problem, when there is no difference between praying to a god and praying to a milk carton.

      Having a prayer answered, appears to require only 3 things:
      1. Belief
      2. Faith
      3. And to be totally sure, you need others who agree with what you are asking for, to pray with you.


      Remember the Gulf oil spill?
      Remember how a ton of people prayed for god to stop the gushing?
      I was spellbound! I watched the real time video of the oil spill. I expected to see it stop. It did not. Human technology eventually capped the well.

      Remember when Rick issued a proclamation, that for 72 hours, the citizens of Texas would all pray for rain. I thought, surely god would hear their prayers and open the windows of Heaven!
      The "days of prayer" ended Sunday, April 24, 2011.
      As of Dec 7, 2011 ... Most of Central Texas and the Colorado River basin remain in the grips of an extreme drought.
      Studies have shown prayer does not work. Any miracles or answered prayers are the result of random chance, coincidence, selective observation or fraud. Believers tend to remember the perceived positive outcome of prayers and forget the failed. Because believers rely on faith, they are easily deceived by unscrupulous people.

      Christians MUST contest this. They must rent their clothes and Shout: "Do not put the lord your god to the test!" LOL!

      God, either does not care or does not exist. Personally, I'm checking the second box. LOL.


      January 8, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @An inconvenient truth

      It irritates me when idiots start preaching on these blogs. It's like you think you have "special" knowledge that everyone else is not privy to.

      So, before you tell us about god and his purpose etc. Let's start at the beginning. Prove the Christian god exists.


      January 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  6. ks

    I have to say a little-with finactics like SP and Rick S.

    January 6, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  7. nelson

    The poll question asked is misleading.
    "How much does religion influence your political preference?" For someone like me who would never want Santorum in office due to his religious views, I would say religion is a major factor in my choice. We don't need a bible thumper in office.

    January 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • jersey3038

      Great point. I had the same thought. Oh and I agree.

      January 6, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • I Don't Get It

      Yep, nelson... and that's the reason that I didn't bother to vote in this poll. The results are useless. I sure hope that they don't use them as evidence of anything. Recycle Bin with that one, CNN.

      January 6, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  8. Phil Muse

    I was struck by your CNN Quick Vote topic "How much does religion influence your political preference?" and especially by your reader response: A lot (15%), A little (21%), and Not at all (64%). I believe this issue is muddled because we habitually confuse religion with the various churches that represent its worldly establishments. Churches that are continually being distracted by the vile partisan politics that are destroying our democracy. To say that you are not influenced at all by religion in your political choices, on the other hand, may only be self-deception. Where do we get our concepts of moral and ehtical behaviour, our basic notions of right and wrong, our compassion for the poor, the elderly and the downtrodden, and the notion of common responsibility for the success of our community, if not from religion? All the world's great western religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – teach these things. There is remarkable consensus among them. We forget our religion-based values when we are distracted by the political partisanship and the global conflicts of our time. It's time to get back to basics, and then maybe we can agree on more of the issues that divide us. Just don't tell me that religion doesn't matter!

    January 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  9. Jute

    It seems odd to me that religion doesn't factor in to more than 60 % of the peoples vote as shown on the CNN poll. Shouldn’t your faith (religious beliefs) factor in to everything?

    January 6, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Kevin

      The question is poorly worded. If the candidate seems bent on imposing his religious beliefs on me then religion factors greatly into my decision (not to vote for him). But religion does not factor into my decision if I compare say, Obama to Mitt Romney. They're both overtly religious but I trust them not to rule from the pulpit, thus it does not factor. So how do I answer the question?

      January 6, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • jersey3038

      True. It occurs to me that god is a no show while the preist is factoring into the little boy. News flash ,,,he doesn't stop it because he doesn't exist.

      January 6, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  10. Iqbal khan

    Promoting War on Iran

    By Stephen Lendman

    Iran poses no belligerent or terrorist threat. In contrast, America, key NATO partners and Israel are global menaces. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30171.htm

    The US-Iran Economic War

    By Pepe Escobar

    Here's a crash course on how to further wreck the global economy. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30172.htm

    Drone Wars
    U.S. Turns to Drones to "Counter" China


    The United States aims to deploy sea-based drones on its aircraft carriers in the Pacific by 2018. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30174.htm

    January 6, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  11. Ratetat

    A very badly worded CNN Poll question... I don't care at all about a candidates personal religion–more power to him. But I care very very much that he or his party puts his religous views on me. "In God We Trust" and "God Bless America" is more then I can take in political speeches from anyone including Obama. So how should I have answered this particular vote? I left this one alone.

    January 6, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • steve

      I agree it is a poorly worded question. It matters to me in the opposite way they are asking. It matters when religion influences their politics too much and they are always using it to pander for votes.

      January 6, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  12. Annexian

    I'm not too worried about the American Protestant/Evangelicals, for their religions. Servants of Mammon proper, IMO... Just check out Bohemian Grove...

    But, a "Mormon" president would be a slave to the elders of Utah.
    A Jewish one to the elders of.... Well the State of Israel.

    And a Catholic one...Sorry but the pope literally holds the key to his salvation if he truly believes.

    Most religious politicians IMO are liars who'd sacrifice a baby to Satan for an extra dollar if they could get away with it. But I fear "True Believers" worse.

    January 6, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  13. starrface

    I'm sooo sick of all you religous goof balls getting involved in the political system. Religion has absoluting nothing to do with anything. Any candidate that is one of these religous goof balsl will not become president. Evangelical Christians are the worst!

    January 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • heehee


      January 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  14. all hail me

    i'm the king of the world. prove me wrong!

    January 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • starrface

      You must be Republican

      January 6, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  15. Jimmy

    Santorum surges from behind, ewwwww nasty!

    January 6, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  16. Binky42

    What's worse than the extremist religious views of these candidates is their outright hypocrisy. Rick Santorum wants to ban all forms or abortion, even if they could potentially be life saving. However, his own wife's life was saved during a difficult pregnancy after the child was aborted. By his own beliefs, his wife should be dead. He's okay with signing away someone else's life, as long as it isn't his family.

    January 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  17. Dale

    But if a preacher gets up there on the pulpit screams and yells and tells his congregation to vote for a particular person that's what they will do.

    January 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Binky42

      That is also illegal, and the IRS is supposed to monitor that. Unfortunately they don't have enough balls to really do anything about it. There is a church near me that openly posts political messages on it's marque. The IRS, with photo evidence in hand, has given them three warnings already. But because they never follow through on their threats to take away the tax exempt status of the church, they just continue to do it.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  18. ProzacME

    Religion and failth are very important to me. I won't vote for anyone who professes to have either.

    January 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  19. Grandma

    Atheists should NOT be allowed to be U.S. citizens... they should be exported to Scandinavia!!!

    January 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • I_get_it

      Lame attempt, troll - SCAT!

      January 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • D man

      It's called freedom FROM religion

      January 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • starrface

      Get a life Grandma!!!!

      January 6, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  20. A


    January 6, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Klaus

      I couldn't agree more.

      January 7, 2012 at 4:01 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.