Who 'Values Voters' Like — and Don't Like — For 2016

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

If you’re Republican presidential contender, one of the most important voting blocs to win over is the “values voters” – the nearly 50 percent of GOP primary voters who are focused on social issues like abortion and traditional marriage.

And perhaps even more important than identifying who’s winning over those voters now is determining which candidates the “values voters” really, really don’t like.

A quick reading of the numbers, according to the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll? It’s good to be former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, but it may be even better to be Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. If you are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or, especially, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the picture isn’t as positive.

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

The poll used a series of issues to identify the group of voters, including strong support support for gun rights, the right to life movement and traditional marriage. And the big winner among them was Mr. Huckabee – 67% of “values voters” said they could see themselves supporting him, while 29% said they could not see themselves supporting him.

But in some ways Mr. Walker actually comes away with the stronger numbers – 56% of “values voters” say they could see themselves supporting him. The real strength for Mr. Walker though comes in the fact that only 13% of those “values voters” said they could not see themselves supporting him.

In other words, Mr. Walker is already second in these data, behind only Mr. Huckabee, and he has a lot of room to grow.

Mr. Bush’s numbers among these voters are respectable, 52% say they could see themselves supporting him, but he may be close to his ceiling with them. His negatives are much higher, with 37% saying they couldn’t see themselves backing him.

The numbers are worse for New Jersey’s Mr. Christie, however. Only 33% of these voters say they could see themselves supporting him, while more than 60% say they could not.

The numbers are crucial because “values voters” are key for candidates looking to generate momentum in the Republican primaries. They make up about half of Republican primary voters (46%) according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll -- and big chunks of the electorate in early Republican nominating contest states such as Iowa and South Carolina.

- NBC's Carrie Dann contributed