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Rasmussen...
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
South Carolina: Romney 28%, Gingrich 21%, Santorum 16%, Paul 16%
Saturday, January 14, 2012 

Next Saturday’s South Carolina Republican Primary is expected to thin the pack of presidential hopefuls, but for now Mitt Romney, winner of both the Iowa caucuses and last Tuesday’s New Hampshire Primary, is the man to beat. New numbers out of South Carolina and Florida suggest that may be easier said than done. 

Romney still holds first place in the South Carolina Primary field, while his opponents jockey for second.   The former Massachusetts governor earns 28% support, virtually unchanged from a week ago, but now former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is in second place with 21% of the vote.  Support for former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum who was in second a week ago has fallen back to 16%, putting him dead even with Texas Congressman Ron Paul who also earns 16%. 

Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose continued candidacy likely depends on the South Carolina vote, now captures six percent (6%) support, while former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman runs last with five percent (5%).

Of course, much can change in the closing days before the South Carolina primary, with just 52% who say they are certain of their vote at this time. In Iowa, a late surge by Santorum nearly swept him to victory. In New Hampshire, Paul and Huntsman made gains in the final days of the campaign. This suggests whoever is perceived as the most effective tactical alternative to Romney could see a last-minute surge in South Carolina as well. 

The next big test for the GOP presidential field is the January 31 primary in Florida, and Romney is currently running away with the race there. He now picks up 41% support with Gingrich a distant second at 19%. Santorum runs third with 15% of the vote. Paul and Hunstman are next with nine percent (9%) and five percent (5%) support respectively. Perry runs dead last among primary voters in the Sunshine State with two percent (2%) support.

Speaking of New Hampshire, our final survey before the actual vote showed Romney 37%, Paul 17% and Huntsman 15%. The actual results were Romney 39%, Paul 23% and Huntsman 17%. Party primaries like New Hampshire where independents also can vote are notoriously hard to call, and Paul was the biggest recipient of votes from voters not registered as Republicans.

Every four years New Hampshire is invaded by politicians as the presidential nomination race of one or both parties begins to formally take off.  Roughly one-in-three (32%) of New Hampshire’s Likely GOP Primary Voters say they have personally met at least one of the candidates this primary season.  Six percent (6%) have met more than three. 

Very few voters (18%) nationally like the fact that Iowa and New Hampshire always go first in the presidential selection process, and most prefer the idea of regional primaries instead. 

A  generic Republican candidate continues to run slightly ahead of President Obama as has been the case nearly every week since late May.Romney remains the only named Republican hopeful who has led the president in more than one hypothetical Election 2012 matchup. This past week, Obama leads Romney by three – 44% to 41%. The two candidates have been running neck-and-neck in regular surveys since January 2011. The former governor’s support has ranged from 38% to 45%, while the president has picked up 39% to 46% of the vote. 

While the Republican presidential hopefuls continue to fight it out, Romney is the only GOP contender that most voters view as having a chance against Obama. 

Still, for the first time since early December, Gingrich is within single digits of the president – 46% to 38% - in an Election 2012 matchup.  Santorum trails Obama by a similar 46% to 39% in their latest hypothetical contest. 

Although  Paul had strong finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, his support remains little changed nationally in his latest matchup with the president. Obama leads him 43% to 37%. 

Paul at a debate last Saturday night in New Hampshire refused to rule out a third party run for the presidency if he fails to win the Republican nomination. But there’s minimal support (6%) for a third party candidate among Republican voters even if their favorite candidate is not the nominee. If Paul doesn’t win the Republican nomination, however, 22% of GOP voters who support him say they plan to vote third party, a finding that is paralleled in our latest surveys in South Carolina and Florida. 

But don’t blame the Tea Party, Scott Rasmussen says in his new syndicated column.  “The conventional wisdom suggests that Tea Party supporters have a “my way or the highway” attitude and Establishment Republicans just want a winner, but the data shows that the opposite is true,” he writes in “Tea Party Mitt?”. 

More voters than ever dislike the Tea Party, and a sizable number thinks the grass roots movement will hurt Republicans in this year’s elections. But most GOP voters don’t agree and still see the Tea Party as good for them in November. Nevertheless, as far as all voters are concerned, the Tea Party is more potentially toxic to the GOP than the Occupy Wall Street movement is for Democrats. 

Voters see that movement as liberal, and most still believe the president is to the left of them ideologically. Just 27% feel Obama has about the same ideological views as they do. Fifty-five percent (55%) say Obama is more liberal than they are, while 11% believe he’s more conservative. Pluralities of voters also continue to believe that the congressional agendas of both major parties are extreme. 

Unfavorable reviews for all four top congressional leaders are at their highest levels in three years, although voters continue to regard the Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, more negatively than their GOP counterparts, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.  Republicans continue to hold a small lead over Democrats on the weekly Generic Congressional Ballot, as they have for two-and-a-half years now. 

The economy remains the number one issue on voters’ minds, and perceptions of the president’s handling of economic issues have improved slightly.  Thirty-seven percent (37%) now rate the way Obama is dealing with the economy as good or excellent, his highest positives since July.  But even more (43%) still give the president poor marks in this area. Since the fall of 2009, Obama’s negatives in the area of the economy have generally exceeded his positives in regular tracking. 

Voters, in fact, now blame President Bush only slightly more than Obama for the continuing bad economy. It’s the narrowest gap between the two in nearly 18 months. 

Americans in recent weeks have been sending increasingly mixed signals about the economy. Concern about inflation remains high but appears to be easing somewhat as Americans show more confidence in the Federal Reserve Board to keep it under control. Still, a sizable majority expects to pay more for groceries in the months ahead. 

Americans overwhelmingly believe that they will be paying more for gas six months from now, and most worry that increasing tensions with Iran will prompt a spike in prices at the pump. 

Most Americans (51%) continue to lack confidence in the stability of U.S. banks. Since February 2009, those lacking confidence in the system have ranged from 46% to 57%. By contrast, in September 2008 just prior to the Wall Street meltdown, 68% of adults were confident in the banking system. 

Investor confidence as measured by the Rasmussen Consumer Index reached its highest level in nearly a year on Friday. Ten percent (10%) of consumers rate the U.S. economy as good or excellent, as do 13% of investors.  But a majority of both consumers (57%) and investors (50%) still give economic conditions in the country poor marks.



 
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