Newt's Losing the South

Elspeth Reeve
Newt's Losing the South

Newt Gingrich's Southern supporters are switching sides to Mitt Romney, new polls show. Even those who loved Newt best -- old people -- are now leaning toward Romney, who is crushing the other candidates nationally. Here's our guide to today's polls and why they matter.

Findings: 46 percent of likely Republican primary voters in Florida say they're backing Romney. Gingrich is in second with 20 percent.

Pollster: Voter Survey Service

Methodology: Phone interviews of 1,266 likely Republican primary voters between January 11 and January 14.

Why it matters: A big chunk of Gingrich's base has been old people, whose numbers are many in Florida. He's been campaigning in the state this month, and just last week predicted, "We will surge very rapidly in Florida." But Public  Policy Polling finds that old folks have abandoned Gingrich, with 28 percent preferring him and 48 percent preferring Romney. Florida has a winner-take-all rule, meaning the second-place finisher gets zero delegates. (That's one reason Ron Paul's not even competing there.) And the vote might not be close at all: VSS predicts Romney could get more than 50 percent of the vote.

Caveat: The reliability of robo-polls is still debated among pollsters.


Findings: Nationally, Santorum and Gingrich are tied for second place at 14 percent, but that's 23 points behind Romney.

Pollster: Gallup

Methodology:  Phone interviews from January 11 to January 15 with 1,195 Republican and Republican-leaning independents who are registered to vote.

Why it matters: Since he tied with Romney in the Iowa caucuses, Santorum got a bump in national polls, but he's started falling off this month. He still does really well with the most religious Republicans, getting 18 percent of those who go to church every week. But even after major evangelical leaders met in Texas this weekend to get behind a Not Romney, they couldn't settle on a single candidate. Meanwhile Romney got the biggest share of support of any Republican candidate this whole election.

Caveat: Evangelicals make up a bigger part of South Carolina's electorate, which could help Santorum pitch himself as the best Not Romney.


Findings: The economy is the No. 1 issue for 51 percent of voters, down slightly from 56 percent in early November.

Pollster: Washington Post/ABC News

Methodology: Phone interviews of 1,000 adults nationally from January 12 to January 15.

Why it matters: Americans think the economy is getting slightly better. According to an CNN/ORC International poll, far fewer Americans think the economy is "very poor" than they did in November -- today's 38 percent compared to last fall's 51 percent. But more people think the economy is merely "somewhat poor." The state of the economy has long been seen as the most important factor in Obama's reelection.

Caveat: Obama's approval rating is still only 47 percent, according to the Post poll, so improved views on the economy haven't meant improved views of Obama.