The Washington Post

Poll: Are Republicans happy with their choices?

Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are each picked by about three in 10 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll., but few say they would be really happy with either one atop the party’s ticket.

Overall, two-thirds nationally would be satisfied if Romney were to become the party’s nominee as would 69 percent for Santorum. But far fewer, 26 and 29 percent, respectively, would be “very satisfied” with each.

Just over half would be satisfied with either of these two outcomes. Some 14 percent would be satisfied only with Romney and 17 percent only with Santorum.

About half or more of most GOP groups would be satisfied with either choice, but satisfaction with “only Santorum” jumps higher among some of the more conservative groups. About a quarter of evangelicals and those who are “very conservative” would only by happy with Santorum as the nominee.

According to the poll, a Romney victory would be particularly hard for Santorum’s supporters to accept. Nearly half, 48 percent, would be dissatisfied with Romney as the nominee. Fewer of Romney’s supporters - 30 percent - would be dissatisfied if Santorum became the party’s standbearer.

Underlying these varying levels of satisfaction, as they have been in GOP primary contests so far, voters are drawn to arguments of pragmatism versus principle for Romney and Santorum. In the new poll, more than half pick Romney as the candidate most likely to beat Obama in November. Romney also has a significant advantage over Santorum and the other GOP hopefuls when it comes to trust in handling the economy.

Santorum has emerged as the candidate most trusted — by 31 percent — on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, doubling his level of support since January. And he now about matches Romney as the candidate who best reflects core GOP values.  

The basic dynamic between electability and conservative purity holds up across core GOP voting groups. About half of evangelicals and the “very conservative” see Santorum as most in line with their social values. Equally high numbers in those groups pick Romney as most electable.

Santorum’s advantage on social issues is not as monolithic across less conservative GOP groups. Those who are less than very conservative and independents are about as likely to pick Romney as Santorum on social issues.

While the race appears to be tightening to a two-man contest nationally, Romney maintains an air of inevitability. Three quarters of Republicans think he will win the nomination, including 68 percent of Santorum’s own supporters.

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Peyton M. Craighill is polling manager for the Washington Post. Peyton reports and conducts national and regional news polls for the Washington Post, with a focus on politics, elections and other social and economic issues.


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