Poll: Santorum Leads Romney in Ohio

Poll: Santorum Leads Romney in Ohio

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - February 15, 2012

Rick Santorum holds a seven-point lead over Mitt Romney in Ohio with just three weeks to go until voters there head to the polls on Super Tuesday, according to a new poll.

The former Pennsylvania senator attracts 36 percent of the support from likely GOP primary voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. Romney places second with 29 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich garners 20 percent, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul rounds out the field with 9 percent.

Santorum wins a plurality of the support among men (36 percent) and women (37 percent). He wins 43 percent of conservatives. Romney gets 24 percent from this group while Gingrich receives 22 percent. Romney leads among moderates with 41 percent, followed by Santorum at 25 percent and Gingrich at 15 percent. Santorum does well with Tea Party voters, attracting 44 percent. Romney and Gingrich tie among this group, with each receiving 21 percent. Non-Tea Party voters are split between Santorum and Romney, 32 percent to 32 percent. Gingrich garners 20 percent.

Santorum has seen his numbers rise in state and national polls after he topped Romney last week in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

According to the Quinnipiac poll, Santorum also wins across most annual income groups, but Romney takes the plurality of support among those whose households bring in more than $100,000 per year. Santorum leads among young voters and middle-aged Republicans, while Romney takes seniors.

The majority of Republican voters here -- 61 percent -- find Romney likable while 25 percent view him unfavorably. Santorum also gets a high favorability rating -- 62 percent -- but 31 percent say they haven't heard of him.

The field in Ohio is remarkably fluid: Half of Republicans say they might change their minds before Election Day.

While is Santorum surging, he struggles when tested in a head-to-head matchup against President Obama, trailing 47 percent to 41 percent. The president leads Romney by a smaller margin here, 46 percent to 44 percent, but Obama wins independents, a critical voting group in the Buckeye State, 45 percent to 41 percent.

Still, voters aren't sure whether they want to send Obama back to the White House: 47 percent say he deserves a second term while 48 percent think he should be replaced. Forty-seven percent of voters also approve of the president's job performance while 48 percent disapprove. Obama's favorability grade is slightly better than his approval score: 49 percent like him while 46 percent view him unfavorably. Independents view him favorably by a 49 percent to 43 percent margin.

Ohio's Republican primary takes place on March 6.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,421 registered voters, included 553 likely Republican primary voters, from Feb. 7-12. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. The sampling error for Republicans is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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