On the basic question of personal popularity, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former House speaker Newt Gingrich get roughly equally positive ratings from conservatives, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
But Gingrich has a slight advantage in some core GOP groups on “strongly favorable” numbers, one that reflects his new-found support from conservatives in the race for the Republican nomination. The latest round of national polls shows Gingrich securing the support of the GOP’s crucial conservative base, surpassing Romney at the expense of embattled Herman Cain.
At the same time, Gingrich’s rise to prominence in the GOP contest doesn’t appear to be a result of distaste for Romney. Six in 10 Republicans overall hold favorable opinions of Gingrich. Nearly as many, 56 percent, favorably rate Romney. They also get similar ratings when drilling down to conservative Republicans and those who identify as “very conservative.”
The relative parity in likability among these groups belies the vote preferences in recent polls. Gingrich numerically tops Romney in recent CNN and Quinnipiac polls in vote preference among Republicans. Gingrich leads Romney among conservative Republicans in the Quinnipiac poll by 30 to 21 percent. Romney leads among moderates by 28 to 17 percent.
The fact that Romney passes the threshold of likability among the Republican base (unlike Texas Gov. Rick Perry) may be enough to help eventually quell repeated conservative searching for an alternative. Romney continually ranks as the most likely candidate to beat President Obama in the general election.
Among all Americans, Romney and Gingrich have similar ratings with just about as many favorable as unfavorable.
Another advantage for Romney is his slightly higher appeal among independents. By 45 to 30 percent, more independents feel favorably than unfavorably toward him; independents offer at least as many negative as positive ones of Gingrich.