I. Gingrich and Romney Viewed Favorably Among GOP and Evangelical Voters
A majority of white evangelical voters have a favorable impression of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, but Romney is facing an intensity deficit.
A majority of white evangelical voters say that they have a strongly favorable or somewhat favorable impression of Gingrich (53%) and Romney (52%). However, evangelical voters are twice as likely to strongly favor Gingrich than they are to strongly favor Romney (16% to 8% respectively).
Evangelical voters have a much less favorable view of the other candidates. About one-third have a favorable opinion of Rick Perry (31%), Ron Paul (33%), and Michele Bachmann (33%).
II. Romney v. Gingrich: Republicans In Their Own Words
One-quarter of evangelical voters say that Gingrich has political views closest to their own. Less than 1-in-5 evangelical voters say that Romney (17%), Bachmann (13%) and Paul (12%) have political views closest to their own. Only 7% say that Perry is the candidate with political views closest to their own.
Evangelical voters are evenly split over whether Bachmann or Perry has religious beliefs closest to their own (17% vs. 16% respectively). Less than 1-in-10 white evangelical voters say that Gingrich (9%), Paul (8%) or Romney (6%) have religious beliefs closest to their own.
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.
When Republican voters with a favorable opinion of Romney were asked why they viewed him favorably, they most frequently cited Romney’s moral, family or religious values (37 mentions). Nearly as many cited his business or political experience (33 mentions). Fewer mentioned his political views (16 mentions) or his electability (17 mentions). Republican voters were more than twice as likely to refuse to offer an opinion or to be unable to provide a reason why they had a favorable view of Romney than Gingrich.
Among Republicans with an unfavorable view of Romney, the most frequently mentioned reason was the belief that he was not consistently conservative (15 mentions). Fewer said that he was not trustworthy (11 mentions) or reported having religious or personal objections to him (9 mentions).Relatively few Republican voters mentioned Romney’s role in passing health care reform as the reason for their unfavorable view (6 mentions).
Republican voters who have a favorable view of Gingrich most frequently cited his leadership experience (39 mentions). Nearly as many Republican voters said his political views (36 mentions) or his intelligence and knowledge (33 mentions) were reasons they had a favorable impression of him. Fewer Republican voters mentioned his honesty (13 mentions) or his electability (7 mentions).
Among Republicans with an unfavorable view of Gingrich, the most frequently cited reason was also his past political experience (17 mentions). Equal numbers mentioned his political views (12 mentions) or negative personal qualities like arrogance, selfishness or dishonesty (12 mentions). Relatively few Republican voters cited Gingrich’s personal life or morality (7 mentions).
III. Fox News, The Tea Party and the GOP Candidates
Republican voters are divided in their views about Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry with as many reporting favorable as unfavorable views. A plurality of Republican voters have an unfavorable view of Ron Paul.
Roughly 4-in-10 Republican voters have a favorable impression of Perry (39%) and Bachmann (41%). Less than 3-in-10 (29%) Republican voters have a favorable view of Paul; 48% have an unfavorable view.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of voters who most trust Fox News for information about current events and politics have a favorable view of Gingrich while roughly 6-in-10 (59%) have a favorable view of Romney.
Tea Party voters view the leading contenders similarly, and their impression of Bachmann is much more favorable than GOP voters overall. About 6-in-10 Tea Party voters have a favorable impression of Gingrich (61%), Romney (56%) and Bachmann (62%). Half say they have a favorable view of Perry and less than 3-in-10 (28%) have a favorable view of Paul. There is an even larger intensity gap between Gingrich and Romney among Tea Party voters, with 36% strongly favoring Gingrich and 19% strongly favoring Romney.
Tea Party voters are paying closer attention to the primary campaign than other voters. More than three-quarters of Tea Party voters say they have been following the Republican primary campaign very closely (49%) or somewhat closely (27%). Among Republican voters, 28% say they are paying very close attention and 46% say they are paying somewhat close attention.
Jones, Robert P., and Daniel Cox. “Gingrich and Romney Tied in Favorability among Evangelical Voters.” PRRI. 2011. http://www.prri.org/research/prri-december-201/.