Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in Illinois: Will Religion Be the Deciding Factor?

Illinois, like many other states in the union, is faced with budget problems, high levels of unemployment, corruption, and cuts to education and pensions. However, when it comes to Tuesday’s Republican Primary in Illinois, religion is likely to play an important role in determining its outcome. From state legislation approving civil unions to federal mandates compelling Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives to their employees, Catholics and Evangelicals in the state have become increasingly angered by what they perceive to be an attack on their religious freedom by the Obama and Governor Pat Quinn administrations.  

Political pundits believe that Rick Santorum’s rhetoric, grounded in conservative religious principles, will appeal to both Catholic and Evangelicals while a poll conducted by the Paul Simon Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in 2010 found that a majority of registered voters in the state of Illinois would never vote for a Mormon. However, more recent polls have revealed that Romney is neck-in-neck with Rick Santorum, which may mean Republican voters in Illinois may be paying less attention to Romney’s Mormon faith.

Either way, it is likely that Rick Santorum’s faith-based message will play well with both Republican Catholics as well as the evangelicals and conservative Protestants in central and southern Illinois. However, one cannot count Romney out. Therefore, it is unlikely that Illinois will perform its historic deed of closing the nomination deal for the Republican contenders. Instead, it is likely to contribute to the continued contestation among Republican hopefuls.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore