How Mitt Romney won the Nevada caucuses

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets supporters at his Nevada caucus night victory celebration in Las Vegas, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Mitt Romney
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

As he did in 2008, Mitt Romney won the 2012 Nevada Republican caucuses with a sizeable victory. Romney has now won three out of the five Republican primaries or caucuses held so far this year: New Hampshire, Florida and Nevada.

CBS News entrance polls show Romney won among most demographic groups. He received strong support from Mormon voters in Nevada - a group he also won overwhelmingly in the 2008 Nevada caucuses. Mormons made up 26 percent of caucus attendees this year, and Romney won a whopping 90 percent of them.

Romney did particularly well with some important groups of voters:

  • Romney won among the 4 in 5 voters who identified themselves as Republicans, receiving 59 percent of their votes. This is the largest share of the Republican vote that Romney has received in the five states that have voted so far.
  • Romney also won among Nevada's conservative voters, 54 percent of whom supported him. That too is the largest share of the vote Romney has received from this group in primaries and caucuses this year.
  • While he has struggled with the most conservative voters in some of the contests already held -- Rick Santorum won among very conservative voters in Iowa, and Newt Gingrich did so in South Carolina and Florida -- Romney also won this group in Nevada. Forty-eight percent of Nevada caucus attendees call themselves very conservative: 49 percent supported Romney, and 24 percent supported Gingrich.
  • While Romney lost among Tea Party supporters in Iowa and South Carolina, he won them handily in Nevada, 50 percent to Gingrich's 23 percent. This was also Romney's best showing among Tea Party supporters in the contests so far this year - 74 percent of Nevada voters said they support the Tea Party.

Romney received 57 percent of the vote among moderates, a group he has carried in all five contests to date.

Full Nevada caucus results
Full Nevada entrance poll
Results by County
Estimated Republican Delegate Scorecard
Full GOP primary results


Recent candidate debates and the results of the primary in Florida earlier this week don't appear to have had much influence on the outcome of the Nevada race. According to the CBS News entrance poll, just 23 percent said they decided which candidate to support in the last few days. Twenty percent decided earlier in January, and more than half - 56 percent -- decided before that. Romney won among all three groups, regardless of when voters made their candidate choice.

Issues and Qualities

As has been the case in each of the four states that preceded Nevada in voting this year, the economy is by far the most important issue on voters' minds - 54 percent chose it. Sixty-one percent of those voters supported Romney; Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich received 15 percent and 17 percent respectively.

And as it did in the other states, electability mattered in Nevada too: 44 percent said that beating Barack Obama was the most important quality they were looking for in a candidate. Romney easily won among this group, getting 73 percent of the vote among those voters to whom it was most important. Romney has won among electability voters in four out of the five states that have voted so far.

Other Candidates

Ron Paul did well among voters groups he has won in previous contests. In Nevada, Paul did well with voters under age 30 (garnering 40 percent to Romney's 39 percent) and among voters who describe themselves as independents (46 percent to Romney's 30 percent). But these groups accounted for a relatively small share of caucus attendees: just 18 percent of Nevada voters said they were independents, and only 8 percent were under age 30.

Mitt Romney can now point to three large wins in his column - New Hampshire, Florida and Nevada. In Nevada he has had some of his best showings among the most conservative voters and Tea Party supporters, and for the first time, won a majority of Republican voters.

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    Sarah Dutton is the CBS News director of surveys.