"I was a little surprised," said Quin Monson, a political scientist at LDS-owned Brigham Young University, who thought a chunk of Mormon Democrats would support Republican Romney because of their shared faith. "When it comes down to the actual vote, party was more important than any sort of tribal affinity for Romney."
The national exit polls didn't break out the Mormon vote in 2008, though a YouGov survey said 67 percent of Mormons supported Republican John McCain that year.
Utah Mormons once again proved that they are more conservative than the LDS faithful at large.
The BYU exit polls of the state show Romney received 90 percent of the Utah Mormon vote, while President Barack Obama took just 8 percent. Four years ago, the split was 76 percent for McCain and 17 percent for Obama. In 2004, Bush got 86 percent of the Utah Mormon vote.
And even Mormon Democrats in Utah were more likely to support Romney than their national counterparts. The BYU poll found that a third of LDS Democrats in Utah supported Romney, while a national YouGov survey of 1,500 Mormons right before the election put the mark at 15 percent.
Mark DeMoss, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign and its unofficial outreach guru to evangelical voters, said, unlike Monson, he wasn't surprised that Romney didn't capture a higher number of his own faith because not all Mormons are monolithic in their politics.
"I had a conversation with Mitt Romney soon after I met him back in '06, and he said, 'You know what, there are Mormons I wouldn't vote for and there are Mormons who wouldn't vote for me,' " DeMoss said, quoting Romney, and adding there are Latter-day Saints who would more align with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a devout Mormon and Democrat.
DeMoss did call it "a great accomplishment" for Romney to receive 79 percent of the white evangelical vote, matching Bush's total in 2004 and gaining 6 percentage points on McCain's 2008 performance. That's a strong showing among a group that has historically viewed Mormons skeptically, with some evangelical leaders saying Mormons are not Christians or are members of a cult.
"Several years ago I would have been pessimistic that could be achieved," DeMoss said Friday. "A lot of us tried to encourage evangelicals to consider common values and not common theology. The more we talked about common values the more comfortable evangelicals became."
While Romney did not see a spike in the percentage of Mormon or evangelical vote, Obama has received a noticeable boost from black Protestants in his two elections.
In 2004, Democrat John Kerry won 86 percent of the votes from black Protestants, a figure that rose to 94 percent in 2008 and 95 percent in 2012.
The Mormon vote
A Pew analysis of exit polls shows how President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney fared by religious group
Mormons • Obama: 21 percent
Romney: 78 percent
White evangelicals • Obama: 20 percent
Romney: 79 percent
Catholics • Obama: 50 percent
Romney: 48 percent
Jews • Obama: 69 percent
Romney: 30 percent
Source: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life