Tags: romney | santorum | polls | gop

Rasmussen Poll: Romney 39, Santorum 27, Gingrich 17

Thursday, 08 Mar 2012 11:23 AM

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Mitt Romney still holds a double-digit lead over Rick Santorum among Republicans nationwide, although the gap between the two is slightly narrower following Super Tuesday’s mixed signals, according to the latest survey by Rasmussen Reports.

More GOP voters than ever now expect Romney to be the party’s nominee, the poll found.

The survey of likely republican primary voters shows Romney ahead of Santorum by 12 points – 39 to 27 percent. That’s a little tighter than it was a week ago when Romney led the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania by 16 – 40 to 24 percent. It was Romney's biggest lead and the highest level of support earned by any GOP candidate in regular surveying of the race. But two weeks before that, Santorum was up by 12 points – 39 to 27 percent.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich remains in third place with 17 percent support despite his win Tuesday in his home state of Georgia, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul continues to run last with 10 percent  of the vote. This marks little shift in their support from last week. Two percent  like some other candidate in the race, and 5 percent are undecided.

While some have suggested that if Gingrich gets out of the race Santorum will move into the lead, the numbers still don’t bear that out. In a one-on-one matchup,  Romney leads Santorum 50 to 39 percent, virtually identical to last week’s findings. Two weeks earlier, Santorum led Romney 55 to 34 percent,  the only time any challenger has led Romney nationally in a head-to-head matchup.

Eighty percent of likely GOP primary voters now expect Romney to be the eventual nominee, up from a previous high of 75 percent last week. Only 11 percent feel Santorum will win the nomination, essentially unchanged from the previous survey. Fifty-one percent  think Romney would be the strongest candidate to run against President Obama, while 19 percent say the same of Santorum and 18 percent believe it to be true of Gingrich. This, too, is little changed from a week ago.

Most, 53 percent, are now certain of how they will vote, but 41 percent say they still could change their minds.

The majority, 56 percent, of Republican primary voters still think it is more important to choose a candidate who has the best chance of beating Obama. Thirty-seven percent prefer a candidate who does the best job representing Republican values. Romney leads Santorum 50 percent to 21 percent among those who put electability first. Among those who put the emphasis on GOP values, it’s Santorum 36 percent, Romney 24 percent, a shift from 33 to 28 percent a week ago.

The national survey of 1,000  was conducted on March 7. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points. Scott Rasmussen, chief pollster of Rasmussen reports, is also the author of  “The People's Money: How Voters Will Balance the Budget and Eliminate the Federal Debt."

Romney’s now less popular among all voters nationwide than he was before the primary season began. Forty-three percent think it would be better for the GOP if a new candidate jumped in the race, but most Republicans don’t agree.

Seventy-three percent of likely share a favorable opinion of Romney. Santorum is viewed favorably by 69 percent, Gingrich by 57 percent and Paul by 40 percent.

Romney and Paul remain the GOP candidates viewed as the least conservative. Santorum is seen as conservative by 88 percent of Republican voters, and 74 percent describe Gingrich that way. Romney and Paul are both viewed as conservative by 57 percent. Perhaps more telling, these findings include 52 percent who consider Santorum very conservative versus 9 percent who say that of Romney.

But Santorum posts just a five-point lead over Romney among very conservative voters – 37 to 32 percent. Romney leads Santorum two-to-one (46 to 23) among those who say they are somewhat conservative and is ahead 38 to 17 percent among non-conservatives.

The two front-runners are tied among Tea Party voters, with Romney earning 34 percent support and Santorum 33 percent. Non-members prefer Romney 41 to 24 percent.

Santorum leads by 10 among evangelical Christian voters but trails Romney by wider margins among other Protestants, Catholics and Republicans of other faiths.

Ninety-two percent of GOP primary voters nationally think the country is heading down the wrong track, and only 11 percent at least somewhat approve of the job Obama is doing as president.

Editor's note: To get a copy of Scott Rasmussen's new book, “The People's Money: How Voters Will Balance the Budget and Eliminate the Federal Debt," at a good price at Amazon — Go Here Now.

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