PRINCETON, NJ -- Mitt Romney's gathering momentum in the Republican nomination contest is evident as he now leads Rick Santorum by 16 percentage points as national Republican voters' choice to be the GOP presidential nominee. He has led Santorum by at least 10 points for the last two weeks, and his lead has been 15 points or more for each of the last five days.
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The latest results, based on Gallup Daily tracking conducted March 29-April 2, show Romney to be the choice of 41% of Republican voters and Santorum the choice of 25%, with Newt Gingrich (12%) and Ron Paul (11%) trailing.
Romney had led continuously since late February after winning the Michigan and Arizona primaries, but his lead dwindled to four points after he lost to Santorum in Alabama and Mississippi on March 13. Romney's current momentum coincides with his decisive victory in the March 20 Illinois primary, and he has maintained a double-digit lead for the last two weeks. On Tuesday, voters in Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia will vote in primaries, with Romney favored in all three contests.
Though Romney has established a clear and consistent lead over Santorum, it is not his largest lead of the campaign. Shortly after the New Hampshire primary, Romney led by as many as 23 points over Santorum and Gingrich. However, his lead at that time was aided by the fact that no clear second-place candidate had emerged, with Gingrich, Santorum, Paul, and Rick Perry each receiving between 5% and 14% support. Since Perry quit the race, either Gingrich or Santorum has been at or above 20%.
Despite the fact that Romney's lead is smaller than it was after New Hampshire, his overall support, currently 41%, is higher now than it was post-New Hampshire (37%).
Romney Holds Solid Lead Among Most GOP Subgroups
Gallup Daily tracking data aggregated on a weekly basis show that Romney is the favorite among most Republican constituencies, with double-digit leads among nearly all groups. Three exceptions are weekly churchgoers (Romney 37%, Santorum 35%), those aged 35 to 54 (Romney 37%, Santorum 33%), and Southerners (Romney 36%, Santorum 32%).
Romney's strongest groups are moderate and liberal Republicans, those aged 55 and older, upper-income Republicans, those living in the East and the West, and those who attend religious services less than weekly.
Romney now leads Santorum by 10 points among conservative Republicans, marking a shift from two weeks ago, when the two were tied among this key group.
Each nominating contest brings Romney closer to winning the Republican nomination. He enjoys a commanding lead in convention delegates and has expanded his lead among rank-and-file Republican voters as their preferred choice for the nomination. Still, Romney has locked up only about half of the total number of delegates he needs to clinch the nomination outright, and though his national support in Gallup tracking is growing, it remains below 50%.
If Romney meets expectations in Tuesday's contests, he will be well-positioned heading into the five April 24 contests. All of those contests are in Eastern states, where Romney's support is generally strong. One possible exception is Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania. Santorum would seem to have little hope for denying Romney the nomination if he loses all five states on April 24.
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Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 29-April 2, 2012, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,212 Republicans and Republican leaners, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, who are registered to vote.
For results based on the total sample of 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 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.