PRINCETON, NJ -- Six in 10 Republican registered voters, nationwide, now believe Mitt Romney is the candidate most likely to win the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, up from 39% saying this in December and exceeding his previous high of 47% from November.
After nearly overtaking Romney last month in predictions of who would eventually lead the 2012 GOP ticket, Newt Gingrich has fallen to third place, with 8% of Republicans now predicting he will win. Expectations for Rick Santorum have surged to 11% from no more than 1% in 2011; however, this still puts him well behind Romney.
The findings are based on 1,117 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are registered to vote, interviewed as part of Gallup Daily tracking from Jan. 4-8. The survey immediately followed the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses in which Santorum earned newfound media exposure by essentially tying Romney for first place. Gingrich's fall in Gallup tracking from his December leads was cemented by his distant fourth place showing in Iowa.
Romney Hits the 30% Mark Nationally; His Voters Are Confident
Heading into Tuesday's New Hampshire primary election, Romney leads Republican preferences nationally for the nomination with 30% favoring him in Gallup Daily tracking conducted over the same Jan. 4-8 period. Romney eclipsed the 30% mark on Sunday for the first time, based on the five-day rolling average from Jan. 3-7.
Santorum and Gingrich are roughly tied for second in GOP preferences, with the support of 18% and 17% Republicans, respectively. Ron Paul ranks a clear fourth with 13%, followed by Rick Perry at 6%, and Jon Huntsman a 1%.
Romney's supporters overwhelmingly predict that Romney will ultimately win the nomination, with 89% saying this. Of the other three leading candidates' supporters, Santorum's show the most confidence that their own candidate will prevail: 38% name him to win, although the plurality, 48%, still name Romney. Half of Paul's supporters and the majority of Gingrich's also expect Romney to win, while less than 30% of each group names their own candidate.
There are new questions about the accuracy of the vote count that gave Romney an eight-vote win in the Iowa caucuses over Santorum, but there is no question that Romney left Iowa with great momentum. That is seen most clearly in the surge in Republicans' expectations that he will win the nomination. Romney has also crossed into the 30% range for the first time in voter preferences for the nomination. However, in a race as volatile as this one has been, it is worth noting that Romney's 12-percentage-point lead over Santorum in voter preferences is nowhere near as strong as his 49-point lead in expectations for who will win.
Romney not only has to win in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, but he has to meet expectations and then carry that momentum into South Carolina and beyond. Otherwise, both Santorum and Gingrich are currently positioned closely enough behind Romney on the ballot to conceivably make another run for the lead.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Jan. 4-8, 2011, with a random sample of 1,242 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of Republicans and Republican-leaners, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
For results based on the total sample of 1,117 Republican registered voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phones numbers are selected using random digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone-only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
The questions reported here were asked of a random half-sample of respondents for 5 nights on the Gallup Daily tracking survey.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.