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Poll finds Romney with big lead in state

New York State Republicans would provide former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney a comfortable victory over his GOP opponents if the primary were held today, a new poll released Thursday finds.

The Quinnipiac University poll of likely Republican primary voters found Romney leading former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, 54 percent to 21 percent.

That's the good news for Romney. The bad news is that when all registered voters from this blue state are included in the poll, Romney trails President Obama, 56 percent to 33 percent, if the general election were held today.

With the sprint under way leading up to the April 24 GOP primary in New York, Romney has put considerable distance between himself and Santorum, as well as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, favored by 9 percent of New York Republicans, and Rep. Ron Paul, who captured 8 percent in the new poll.

No comparisons can be made for the GOP primary contest because Quinnipiac is asking the New York GOP presidential preference question for the first time this year.

The poll found some considerable wiggle room: 39 percent of likely Republican voters said they could still change their minds, and 8 percent are undecided.

Proving, once again, that New York Republicans who label themselves as conservative are not quite the same as, say, an Iowa conservative Republican. Romney leads Santorum, 49 percent to 26 percent, among self-described conservatives and by a similar level even among tea party backers.

In a general election contest, though, New York's Democratic enrollment edge -- there are 5.6 million Democrats to 2.8 million Republicans -- works against Romney.

"New York is still a super-blue state. President Barack Obama trounces any of the GOP challengers in a general election matchup. That 94 [percent] to 1 percent lead among black voters gives the president a jumbo cushion," said Quinnipiac pollster Maurice Carroll.

Obama leads Santorum, 59 percent to 30 percent.

The poll of 1,597 New Yorkers was conducted March 28 to April 2 and has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points. The separate breakout for the GOP primary was of a smaller pool of voters -- 372 likely voters -- and so contains a higher, 5.1 percent margin of error.