PRINCETON, NJ -- Mitt Romney has moved ahead of Newt Gingrich in national Republican registered voters' preferences for the 2012 GOP nomination, 31% to 26%, according to Gallup Daily tracking from Jan. 27-31. This includes one night of interviewing that may partly reflect Republicans' reactions to Romney's victory in the Jan. 31 Florida Republican primary.
Rick Santorum came in third in Florida, and is also a clear third in Gallup Daily tracking, now favored by 16% of Republican voters nationally, compared with Ron Paul's 11%. Support for Santorum has been holding steady near 16% in recent days, while support for Paul has dwindled slightly.
With none of the Republican candidates yet establishing a dominant or lasting position as GOP front-runner in this race, Republicans' preferences appear to be swayable by the candidates' performances in the various debates and primary elections.
Romney's support had swelled in Gallup Daily tracking after he was believed to have won the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. This momentum continued after he won the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary, with support for him peaking at 37% by Jan. 15. However, Gingrich overtook Romney a week later, after his strong debate and electoral showings in South Carolina.
Gingrich Has Capacity to Rebound
In his speech to supporters Tuesday night after the Florida election returns were in, Gingrich commented on his ability to bounce back after the media have declared his candidacy over. Gallup polling shows Gingrich has already been able to regain the lead in national Republican preferences once after previously losing it. That was in mid-January after his South Carolina victory. Gingrich previously led in early December after Herman Cain's departure from the race, but subsequently lost the lead in the run-up to Iowa.
Gingrich's personal image also underwent a transformation last fall after his Positive Intensity Score had collapsed in June and July. However, he was not in contention for the lead in GOP preferences during that time.
Gallup Daily tracking conducted through Tuesday night finds Romney already enjoying a national boost born of his success in Florida, even before the full impact of his victory there has played itself out in the Gallup data. Romney's current five-percentage-point lead will likely expand in the coming days, following the pattern seen previously for the primary victors.
Given the volatility in the race to date, however, and the proven capacity of major campaign events to be catalysts for further change, it remains to be seen whether Romney can maintain that momentum. With several states holding caucus or primary elections in February and several more debates scheduled over the next month, the race could change yet again even before March 6, when Super Tuesday could help clarify where the race is headed.
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Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Jan. 27-31, 2012, with a random sample of 1,159 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are registered to vote, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of registered Republicans and Republican-leaners, 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 by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone 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 2011 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.
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.