Romney facing intensity gap; many favoring Romney unable to articulate reasons
Washington, D.C. – Despite polls and pundits who have pegged Newt Gingrich as the national Republican frontrunner, a new national survey released today shows Gingrich tied with Mitt Romney in favorability among key demographic groups, including white evangelical Protestants (53 percent vs. 52 percent) and Republican voters (60 percent vs. 63 percent).
The December Religion & Politics Tracking Survey from Public Religion Research Institute finds that white evangelical voters are twice as likely to strongly favor Gingrich (16 percent) compared to Romney (8 percent). Similarly, Tea Party voters demonstrate comparable levels of overall support for Gingrich (61 percent) and Romney (56 percent), but Gingrich commands a lead over Romney in strongly favorable views (36 percent vs. 19 percent).
“Gingrich isn’t leading Romney in terms of overall favorability, but he’s inspiring more passion among key demographic groups, including white evangelical Protestants,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “Despite having a personal history that concerns evangelicals, Gingrich is still connecting with many evangelical voters.”
Republican voters overall are also more likely to strongly favor Gingrich (26 percent) compared to Romney (17 percent). The survey also asked Republicans to describe, in their own words, the single most important reason they had a favorable or unfavorable view.
“Republican voters who favored Gingrich provide clear reasons for that view, citing his past experience, his conservatism, and his intelligence,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI Research Director. “While Republican voters who favor Romney cite his moral character and past experience, a significant number are unable to articulate why they like him. This is a clear problem for his campaign heading into the Iowa caucus and beyond.”
Roughly 6-in-10 Republican voters say they have a favorable view of Romney (63 percent) and Gingrich (60 percent). Michele Bachmann (41 percent), Rick Perry (39 percent), and Ron Paul (29 percent) lag behind the two front-runners in overall favorability. Despite his recent surge in Iowa, a plurality (48 percent) of Republican voters have an unfavorable view of Ron Paul.
Among the findings:
Views of Romney and Gingrich: Republican Voters In Their Own Words
- When Republican voters with a favorable opinion of Romney were asked to provide the single most important reason for their view, they most frequently cited Romney’s moral, family or religious values (37 mentions).
- Among Republicans with an unfavorable view of Romney, the most frequently mentioned reason was the belief that he was not consistently conservative (15 mentions).
- Republican voters who have a favorable view of Gingrich most frequently cited his leadership experience (39 mentions).
- Among Republicans with an unfavorable view of Gingrich, the most frequently cited reason was also his past political experience (17 mentions).
Most white evangelical voters have a favorable impression of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, but Gingrich leads in strongly favorable views.
- A majority of white evangelical voters report having a strongly favorable or somewhat favorable impression of Gingrich (53 percent) and Romney (52 percent).
- Evangelical voters have a much less favorable view of the other candidates. Only about one-third have a strongly or somewhat favorable opinion of Rick Perry (31 percent), Ron Paul (33 percent), and Michele Bachmann (33 percent).
- Twice as many evangelical voters say that they strongly favor Gingrich (16 percent) compared to Romney (8 percent).
Republican voters have roughly similar views of Romney and Gingrich, but Romney lags in intensity. Roughly 6-in-10 Republican voters say they have a favorable view of Romney (63%) and Gingrich (60%). However, 26% of Republican voters say they have a strongly favorable view of Gingrich, compared to 17% who say this about Romney.
Among voters who most trust Fox News, 30 percent have a strongly favorable view of Gingrich, compared to only 15 percent who have a favorable view of Romney.
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 December 7, 2011 and December 11, 2011 by professional interviewers under the direction of Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS). Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 1,012 adults 18 years of age or older in the continental United States (300 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.