March 07, 2012

Poll: GOP primary voters favor Santorum

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Republican primary voters in Southern Illinois favor former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 29 percent to 21 percent, according to a new poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The survey, conducted last week, also shows former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as the choice of 11 percent of GOP primary voters, while Texas Congressman Ron Paul drew 6 percent.

The “front-runner” among area voters is “undecided.”  A plurality of Southern Illinois Republicans -- 30 percent -- said they were undecided, and 4 percent chose “other.”

This is the third annual Southern Illinois poll conducted by the Institute.

In the survey of 400 registered voters from Illinois’ southernmost 18 counties, conducted February 23-28, before the March 6 “Super Tuesday” contests, about one-third of respondents (32 percent) said they would vote in the Republican primary, another third (33 percent) said they would vote in the Democratic primary, and the other third (35 percent) said they were either unsure or were unlikely to vote.

“This is an interesting result, and consistent with what we see in the volatile Republican primary in the rest of the country,” said David Yepsen, Institute director. “About one in five supported Romney, and three in ten supported Santorum -- the current leading ‘not-Romney’ candidate.

Another way to look at the results is that among those with an opinion, 46 percent wanted someone other than Romney. Another 30 percent were undecided just a few weeks out from the March 20 Illinois primary. Poll results are available here.

Charles Leonard, a visiting professor at the Institute who supervised the poll, said “we should remind people not to over-interpret these results, taken as they are from a relatively small sub-sample of voters in our survey, which was conducted in Illinois’ least populous region. It’s suggestive, perhaps, but not conclusive.”

In another finding, the poll also showed voters in Southern Illinois with a negative view of the direction of both the nation and the state. A little less than one in five voters (19 percent) thought the country was headed in the right direction, while three-fourths (75 percent) thought things were off track and headed in the wrong direction.

As has been the pattern in Simon Institute polling, the numbers were even worse regarding the direction of the state. Only about one Southern Illinois voter in 12 (8 percent) thought things in the state were headed in the right direction, while the vast majority (83 percent) said things were headed in the wrong direction.

Voters in the Southern Illinois survey were more optimistic about the direction of things in their city or their area of the state; half (50 percent) thought things in their part of the state were going in the right direction, while four in ten (40 percent) thought things were headed in the wrong direction.

“This continued pattern of greater voter pessimism at the state level than at the national level demonstrates just how grim citizens’ view of Illinois politics really is,” said Leonard. “In most surveys in most places, the closer you get to home, the higher the ‘right direction’ responses should be. Since our first statewide Simon Poll in 2008, pessimism about the direction of the state has always been worse than voters’ already-dim view of the direction of the country.”

The poll of 400 registered voters came from the 18 southernmost counties in Illinois: Alexander, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Union, Washington, White, and Williamson.  Live phone interviews were conducted February 23-28. The sample of 400 has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. This means that if we conducted the survey 100 times, in 95 of those instances, the result would be within plus or minus 4.9 percentage points from the results obtained here.

The interviews were conducted by Issues & Answers of Virginia Beach, VA.  It reports no Illinois political figures as clients. The poll was paid for with non-tax dollars from the Institute’s endowment fund. 

For more information contact Leonard at 618/303-9099; John Jackson, visiting professor at the Institute at 618/453-3106; J. Tobin Grant, associate professor of political science at SIU Carbondale at 618/559-2215, or Yepsen, at 618/559-5854.

Note:  The “Simon Poll” and the “Southern Illinois Poll” are the copyrighted trademarks of the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University.  Use or publication of these polls is encouraged -- but only with credit to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.