Despite Newt Gingrich’s momentum within the Republican Party, he would be a weaker contender than Mitt Romney in a general election contest against President Barack Obama, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WSVN-Miami) poll of likely voters in Florida.
Romney led Obama by 47 percent to 42 percent in the Florida survey, while Obama topped Gingrich by 9 points, 49 percent to 40 percent. Among independents, Obama led Romney 44 percent to 38 percent and opened up a 56 percent to 29 percent advantage over Gingrich. Gingrich grabbed 12 percent of registered Democrats, while Romney secured 18 percent of registered Democrats.
“Newt Gingrich is weak among Florida independents and likely Democratic voters compared to Romney,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “If Florida is one of six key states that swings the national election, independents in Florida hold that key, and this poll suggests that Newt won’t be able to secure Florida for his party.”
In the popularity contest, Gingrich again did not fare well. He holds a 29 percent favorable and 58 percent unfavorable rating statewide among all likely voters. By contrast, Romney had a 44 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable rating. Romney’s popularity was lower among independents: 37 percent favorable and 36 percent unfavorable, while Gingrich’s popularity among independents imploded to 19 percent favorable with 70 percent unfavorable.
In the head-to-head matchup with Obama, Romney has risen from 42 percent to 47 percent (+5 points) since a poll taken in late October by Suffolk University/7NEWS (WSVN-TV) Miami. Obama polled at exactly 42 percent against Romney in both surveys. However, in that same October poll Obama led Gingrich 45 percent to 38 percent. He has since gained 4 points, and Gingrich 2 points.
In the Obama-Romney matchup, the poll showed that 83 percent of Obama voters would cast votes “for Obama,” while 17 percent said they would vote “against Romney.” On the flip side, 52 percent of Romney voters classified themselves as a vote “for Romney,” while 48 said their votes were “against Obama.”
Majority say country on wrong track
Although a majority of Sunshine State voters said they felt the country was on the wrong track (58 percent), that number has dropped 8 points, and the number of voters who believe the country is on the right track jumped 7 points, from 20 percent to 27 percent in less than three months.
“If this improvement in perception continues this rapidly, it represents a dynamic factor that could ultimately move President Obama’s numbers higher as people tie the economy to his incumbency in a positive way,” said Paleologos.
A rising economy would swing votes
Fifty-two percent of likely voters of all parties said that an improvement in the economy between now and the election would make them very likely or somewhat likely to vote for Obama. This finding included 58 percent of independents and even 16 percent of likely Republican voters.
Analyzing VP choices
The poll showed that choosing Marco Rubio as Romney’s running mate on the GOP ticket would make no difference in the general election and could even be a slight negative. Although Romney led Obama 47 percent to 42 percent, a Romney-Rubio ticket showed a 46 percent to 44 percent lead, within the statistical margin of error.
“On the Republican side, at least, the historical adage of people not voting for the VP on a presidential ticket rings true in this poll,” said Paleologos. “However, the Democratic side is a much different story.”
The substitution of Hillary Clinton as vice presidential nominee would give Obama a dramatic boost in Florida, as the October of 2011 poll also indicated. An Obama-Clinton ticket in Florida would crush a Romney-Rubio ticket by 49 percent to 42 percent. Back in October, this combination favored the Democrats by 46 percent to 43 percent. Clinton also was the most popular figure polled in the current survey, with a 63 percent favorable and a 30 percent unfavorable rating.
Suffolk University will be fielding a poll limited to likely Florida Republican primary voters this weekend after the final Florida debate and will release the findings at noon on Monday, Jan, 30, the day before the Florida primary.
In January 2008 Suffolk University forecast that John McCain would win Florida’s Republican presidential primary by 3 points; McCain won by 5 points. In late October 2008, Suffolk University polling predicted a 5-point general election win for Obama. He won by 3 points on Election Day.
The statewide survey of 600 Florida registered voters was conducted Jan. 22-24, 2012, using live telephone interviews of landline and cell phone users. The margin of error is +/-4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data will be posted at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, on theSuffolk University Political Research Center Web site. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.