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Marquette Law School Poll – Santorum leads the WI Primary, Obama leads significantly in the general

by @ 12:22 on February 22, 2012. Filed under 2012 Presidential Contest, Politics - Wisconsin.

Marquette University’s Law School released its second poll of Wisconsin registered voters this morning, the first dealing with the April 6 Presidential primary, and the first to match up each of the 4 remaining Republican Presidential candidates against Barack Obama (January’s poll matched Mitt Romney against Obama). The primary topline is that Rick Santorum had the support of 34% of those considering voting in the Republican primary, with Romney at 18%, Ron Paul at 17%, and Newt Gingrich at 12%. The general topline is Obama would get a double-digit majority win over each candidate, with Santorum coming closest at 51%-40%. Romney saw his deficit to Obama increase from 40%-48% in January to 38%-53% this month, due in part to a rather significant shift in the partisan split from 43% independent/28% Democrat/26% Republican (46% D/44% R with leaners) last month to 35% independent/34% Democrat/26% Republican (47% D/39% R with leaners).

Beyond the toplines – primary edition

Those who lean Republican make up a mere 66.6% of those who said they support one of the four candidates, which probably reflects the ease and anonymity of the partisan primary process in Wisconsin (only the voter knows in which party’s primary he or she voted). However, the facts that they’re the largest constituency and that 81.6% of those who lean Republican did support one of the four candidates illustrate the relative strength of the four candidates.

Among that core constuency (including the 7.5% who don’t plan on voting in the Presidential primary), Santorum trounced Romney 40.6%-18.5%, with Gingrich a distant third at 11.7%. Santorum, the only candidate to improve his favorability ratio from last month, had a favorable/unfavorable split of 56.1%-10.1%, a rather significant improvement from January’s 48.6%/9.8%. Romney slipped from a 48.9%-29.2% split in January to a 45.9%-32.4% split in February, Paul slipped from a 42.4%-28.0% split in January to a 38.4%-31.2% split in February, and Gingrich went underwater, collapsing from a 45.1%-41.5% split in January to a 35.2%-48.8% split in February.

Surprisingly, Santorum even placed second among those leaning Democrat, 23.7% of whom said they would support one of the four candidates in the primary. Among that group of 80, Paul took 43.5%, Santorum 26.2%, Romney 16.0% and Gingrich 14.3%. Notably, Paul’s Democrat-lean total of 35 was greater than his Republican-lean total of 31.

While the Marquette Law School Poll does not directly measure the “likely voter” metric (a discussion from director Charles Franklin on the subject here), the school did release a “likelyhood” crosstab based on a question of how likely each respondent was to vote in November. As Wisconsin is within a month and a half of the primary, looking at the likelyhood of a respondent voting is undeniably worth exploring. Among those “absolutely certain” to vote in November and who did not say they would not participate in the Republican primary, Santorum led with 39.2%, Romney was second with 19.7%, Paul was third with 13.7%, and Gingrich was last with 10.0%. Adding those “very likely” to vote in November and not ruling out voting in April changes the percentages to 35.4% Santorum, 19.0% Romney, 17.1% Paul and 11.4% Gingrich, virtually indistinguishable from the larger “registered voter” number.

On the ideology front, of those who did not rule out voting in the primary, 12.3% described themselves as “very conservative”, 41.2% as “conservative”, 31.5% as “moderate”, 6.1% as “liberal” and 1.5% as “very liberal”. Santorum took 57.5% of the very-conservative potential vote, with Gingrich a distant second at 24.3% and Romney an even more distant third at 11.2%. Among those who were “merely” “conservative”, Santorum took 34.7%, with Romney second at 21.4% and Gingrich third at 14.6%. Paul’s strength begins with the “moderates”, with a 28.1% plurality among moderates (barely ahead of Santorum’s 28.0% and well ahead of Romney’s 16.5%), and near-majorities of 43.7% of “liberals” (with Romney second at 26.1%) and 49.4% of “very liberals” (with the remaining 50.6% undecided).

Beyond the toplines – general edition

The biggest boost to Obama’s chances was his boost in favorability, from 50% favorable/44% unfavorable last month to 52%/43%. In an interesting twist, that is higher than his job approval split of 50% approval/43% disapproval (also up from January’s 47%/47% split), a mirror opposite of Scott Walker’s 47% approval/47% disapproval and 46% favorable/48% unfavorable splits.

Among the Republican challengers, only Santorum had a positive favorability in the Dem-heavy overall poll at 30% favorable/27% unfavorable (versus 27%/21% last month). Paul, who was at an even 31%/31% split last month, fell to 27%/37% this month. Romney slipped from 30%/42% to 27%/50%, while Gingrich slipped from 25%/53% to 21%/61%.

While last month, among those “certain” to vote, Obama and Romney were tied at 45.1%, Obama increased his percentage among this group to between 49.4% (against Santorum) to 53.8% (against Gingrich). Much like last month, the less committed one is to vote, the more likely one would vote for Obama against any of the Republicans.

Specifically to Romney, while a significant portion of his softening of support versus Obama was due to the increased number of Democrats, that does not explain the entirety of the collapse. Even after “normalizing” the February poll numbers to the January partisan percentages, Romney would lose 51%-40%. That was due to a 8-point drop in support among Republicans down to 80.8% (with a 7-point gain by Obama among the same). By comparison, Santorum held 87.1% of Republicans, Paul 82.4% and Gingrich a mere 78.9%.

The news is not all “good” (relatively-speaking) for Santorum. While he would lose the “independent” vote to Obama 53.1%-35.7%, Romney would “only” lose by 50.5%-38.9%.

Regarding ideology, the larger poll sample had 8% “very conservative” (compared to 9% last month), 30% “conservative” (versus 32%), 38% “moderate” (versus 32%), 16% “liberal” (versus 14%), and 4% “very liberal” (unchanged). Santorum would carry the “very conservative” vote by a 86.4%-13.6% margin and the “conservative” vote 67.7%-23.0%, and lose the “moderates” 62.3%-27.1%, while Romney would carry the “very conservative” vote 72.7%-23.1% (note; while that doesn’t seem right, it does add up), and the “conservative” vote 68.0%-22.2%, and lose the “moderate” vote 65.7%-24.4%.

Revisions/extensions (1:13 pm 2/22/2012) - Somehow mentioned Romney twice in the “conservative” portion of the primary writeup. Fixed.

R&E part 2 (8:19 pm 2/22/2012) - Many thanks to Stacy McCain for linking in his liveblog of the debate tonight.

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