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In GOP race, voters divided over religion’s place in politics

March 2012: The Republican hopefuls continue their pursuit of the presidential nomination.

Faith has emerged as a significant fault line in the Republican race for president, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, which shows that Rick Santorum’s supporters seek a much stronger role for religion in American politics than do voters who support rival Mitt Romney.

More than half of Santorum’s backers say political leaders should rely on their religious beliefs while making policy decisions, but two out of three Romney supporters feel the opposite — that leaders should steer clear of their faith as they set policies for the country

While 65 percent of Santorum’s supporters say it is important for a presidential candidate to share his or her religious beliefs, only about 40 percent of Romney’s supporters feel the same. And about six in 10 Santorum backers generally feel that the country has gone too far in separating church and state; 37 percent of Romney’s backers feel the same.

The results are consistent what has been evident in exit polls: Santorum, with his overtly Christian pitch, has emerged as the candidate of choice for religiously oriented Republican voters, particularly evangelical Christians, who have turned out in large numbers to support the Catholic former senator from Pennsylvania.

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