It was late in the night of Tuesday March 13th, 2012. For most people it was just another normal day.
For Americans in three states, however, it was election day. The good folk of Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi were voting for the Republican 2012 presidential nominee.
Alabama and Mississippi voted first. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney had a rough time in both primaries, coming third in both. Late at night, the returns from Hawaii started coming in. Romney did better there: he held a small but consistent lead as the precincts started trickling in. By 1:19 a.m. Pacific Time, Romney held 35% of the vote to second place Rick Santorum’s 29%. Things looked good, but not great, for Romney.
Then this came in:
Romney won an astounding 92.5% of the regular ballots in this precinct. His lead jumped to 46%. The Republican ended the night winning Hawaii by a landslide, taking 44.4% of the vote to second place Rick Santorum’s 28.1%
The picture above indicates the caucus results in Laie, Hawaii. These were held in Laie Elementary School. You can actually take a look at list of caucus locations at the Hawaii Republican Party’s website; Laie is near the bottom. Laie is located on Hawaii’s main island, Oahu. Specifically, it’s on the island’s north shore.
Laie is one of the most conservative places in Hawaii. In the 2008 presidential election Republican John McCain won three precincts in Hawaii. One of these was Laie:
It was pretty close, however. John McCain took 50.0% of the vote, barely edging the 48.1% of the vote Obama took.
Laie is not the most populated place; 6,138 people live in the CDP that the Census uses for the area. 1,360,301 people live in Hawaii. So it’s about 0.45% of the population.
In the 2012 Hawaii Caucus, however, Laie dramatically overperformed its share of the population. In fact, the word dramatic is somewhat of an understatement. As the picture above indicates, 1,110 people cast regular ballots in Laie. In total, 10,288 Hawaiians participated in the caucuses. So Laie composed 10.9% of the votes cast in the caucus.
Without the votes from this one place alone, Romney would only have won 38.6% of the vote. His margin over Santorum would literally have been cut in half.
So why are the good folk of Laie so passionate about Romney, perhaps one of the least inspiring presidential candidates in recent history?
Defrauded by Gibson of its property in Lanai, the Church purchased 6,000 acres at Laie, on the island of Oahu, on 26 Jan. 1865. Soon thereafter, a colony, school and sugar factory were started.
Mormons in Laie voted overwhelmingly for a person of their fellow faith. Their support for Romney was almost certainly also a reaction to the hostility Romney has encountered amongst other Christians. This recalls the 80% of the Catholic vote JFK pulled in 1960, when many Protestants opposed him on religious reasons. Since then no politician has ever come close to that level of loyalty amongst Catholics.
The Mormon vote in Laie is reminiscent of the margins that Democrats often pull in inner-cities. It’s pretty stunning.
This result, however, is not actually that unique in the wider context of worldwide voting patterns. There is a long history of extremely polarized voting based on religious voting. For most of the 19th century in America, you could guess pretty accurately who somebody would vote for by their religion. In Nigeria Muslims in the north and Christians in the south consistently vote different ways. In Israel a similar divide occurs with Muslims and Jews.
In Hawaii, white and Asian Mormons in Laie ended up giving 93% of their vote to Mitt Romney. Put any group under a particular set of (usually adversarial) circumstances, and it end up giving 90+% support to a certain side in an election. Hawaii’s Republican caucus is a perfect example of this.