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Obama Holds Sizeable Lead Over Both Romney, Gingrich

Obama Voters More Excited about Choice than Republican Voters

Washington, DC—On the same day President Obama addresses his faith before members of Congress and national religious leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast, a new national survey finds Obama leads Mitt Romney by 11 points (48% vs. 37%), and Newt Gingrich by 19 points (52% vs. 33%) among all voters.  This comes as Romney’s lead over Gingrich among Republican and Republican-leaning voters stands at 7 points (34% vs. 27%).

The new PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with the Religion News Service, finds in a Romney-Obama matchup, less than half (49%) of voters who chose Romney over Obama report that they would be excited about voting for Romney. In contrast, two-thirds of voters who picked Obama say they would be excited to vote for him.  In a Gingrich-Obama matchup, a majority (55%) of voters who chose Gingrich over Obama say they would be excited to vote for the former Speaker. In contrast, 65% of voters who preferred Obama say they would be excited to vote for him.

“Romney and Gingrich are nearly identical in voters’ eyes when it comes to the best plan to create jobs and promote economic growth,” explained Daniel Cox, PRRI Research Director. “They also think Romney and Gingrich are about equally qualified to be President. Romney’s crucial advantage, at this point, is that Republican voters believe he has the best chance of defeating Barack Obama.”

Romney, however, continues to have weak support among white evangelicals. When asked which current Republican candidate they would most like to see nominated as the Republican Party’s candidate, 35% of white evangelical Republican voters named Gingrich, 22% named Santorum, and only 17% named Romney.

“In every Republican primary this election season, Romney’s support among white evangelical voters has consistently run approximately 9 points below his support among all primary voters,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI. “This new survey shows that Romney continues to struggle to reach white evangelical voters nationally.”

Despite weakness among this demographic in the primary, Romney maintains a strong advantage over Obama among white evangelical voters (60% vs. 22%). At the other end of the spectrum, Obama has a large lead over Romney among religiously unaffiliated voters (58% vs. 25%). White mainline Protestant voters are again nearly evenly divided (41% for Obama vs. 43% for Romney). Romney performs better among Catholics than Gingrich, pointing to a potential strength if Romney becomes the nominee. Among this crucial swing group, Obama leads Romney by only 8 points (48% vs. 40%).

Among the findings:

  • Voters are united in their concern for jobs/unemployment (83% of voters see this as a critical issue).
  • Democratic voters are more than twice as likely as Republican voters to say that the growing gap between the rich and the poor is a critical issue (63% vs. 30%).
  • White mainline Protestants (48%) and Catholics (47%) are far more likely than white evangelical Protestants (33%) cite the gap between the rich and the poor as a critical issue.

Read the report.

Read the topline questionnaire and methodology.

The survey was designed and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between January 25, 2012 and January 29, 2012 by professional interviewers under the direction of Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS). Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 1,005 adults 18 years of age or older in the continental United States (302 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.

Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.