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Romney romps among nearly all voter groups in Arizona primary

Updated at 10:13 AM ET

Mitt Romney dominated among nearly every demographic, income, and ideological category in Tuesday’s Arizona primary.

As in Michigan’s contest on Tuesday, in Arizona the economy was the issue that mattered most to voters: nearly half of those interviewed in the exit poll picked the economy as the dominant issue and Romney won those voters with 51 percent, to Rick Santorum’s 26 percent.

A plurality of voters said they wanted someone who could beat President Obama in November and 56 percent of such voters backed Romney.

Among the minority (15 percent) who said they were looking for “a true conservative,” 43 percent supported Santorum. Another group which Santorum won was born-again Christians: 37 percent supported Santorum while 35 percent backed Romney.

Time's Mark Halperin thinks Mitt Romney can rally the GOP base because he's shown them there is no "pure candidate" in the race.

But Catholic voters (17 percent of the electorate) much preferred Romney to Santorum, as did non-evangelical Protestants.

Romney, a Mormon, also won nine out of ten Mormon voters, who accounted for 14 percent of Tuesday’s electorate.

Despite Romney having changed his views on abortion in 2005, and Santorum having been a stalwart abortion foe for many years, it was Romney who dominated among the nearly 60 percent of voters who said abortion should be illegal: Romney won half of those voters in Arizona, while Santorum won about a quarter of them.

Exit poll interviews of voters in Tuesday’s primary defied some of the news media stereotypes. Arizona has enacted the most stringent law in the nation to arrest illegal immigrants and question those suspected of being illegals. And illegal immigration was a concern to some voters in Tuesday’s election -- but only 13 percent said it was the issue that most mattered in deciding how they voted.

After winning both the Michigan and Arizona primaries on Tuesday night, Mitt Romney turns his sights on President Obama and the fall campaign.

 

And remarkably, more than three out of five Arizona Republican primary voters said illegal immigrants ought to be allowed either to apply for citizenship or to stay in the United States as temporary workers.

Only 34 percent of Arizona voters wanted illegal immigrants deported. Romney easily won among all three groups of voters.

Romney won among all income groups but did best among those with a family income of $100,000 or more. But even among the voters who reported family income of under $50,000, Romney beat Santorum 42 percent to 28 percent.

Fifty-four percent of Arizona voters said they’d made their decision on whom to vote for before this month. And most of them (49 percent) backed Romney.