(Photo: AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)
Social conservatives at the Values Voter Summit have crowned a new top contender for president, though the winner of this year’s straw poll only edged out last year’s by two points.
Out of all the votes from the poll, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) received 24 percent while former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee picked up 22 percent. Rounding out the top five presidential candidates, meanwhile, were former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (13 percent), former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (10 percent), and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin (7 percent).
Out of the top five, only Palin, who was attending a Republican event in Iowa, did not speak at the Family Research Council Action’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. The straw poll results were based on 723 on-site votes out of the total number of 2,000 people who attended the summit.
“We’re a long ways from the election,” said FRC president Tony Perkins. But Indiana Rep. Mike Pence “represents the qualities and the character that many voters in America are looking for,” he added.
On Friday, Pence described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”
During his onsite speech, the Indiana lawmaker opposed repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and government funding of abortion, criticized the Obama administration for its cold treatment of Israel, and said America was going broke from government spending.
"We see among social conservatives, as we've been saying, both fiscal and the social issues are on their mind and their top choices for candidates,” Perkins commented. “As we've seen in the primaries, actually, are those candidates who can address both, who are conservative across the board, upholding the constitution and those founding principles, solid fiscal records, as well as, solid social records."
Taken each year during the annual summit, the “Values Voter” straw poll serves as a rough predictor of what social conservatives are looking for in a presidential candidate rather than definitive statistics, given that it is based only on 723 votes.
According to the straw poll, the top issues for social conservatives when deciding which candidate to support, in order, are: abortion, government spending, repeal of healthcare reform law, protection of religious liberty and national security.
At last year’s summit, Huckabee was the heavy favorite for presidential candidate, winning the straw poll with 28 percent of the votes. In second, with less than half the votes received by Huckabee, was Mitt Romney with 12.4 percent. This year’s winner, Mike Pence, was fifth in the 2009 straw poll, with only 11.89 percent of the votes.
This year marks the fifth time the Values Voter Summit has been held and the third year the straw poll has taken place at the event.
The three-day event, which boasts itself as the nation’s largest social conservative conference, has this year drawn more than 2,000 participants.
Altogether the event features over 40 speakers, which this included former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Fox News TV talk show host Sean Hannity.
This year’s summit is scheduled to conclude Sunday with a morning worship service.