Republican voters who prefer Newt Gingrich for the party's 2012 presidential nomination are as likely to name Mitt Romney as their second choice as they are to name Rick Santorum, suggesting the race would not tilt in Santorum's favor if Gingrich dropped out.
These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted March 8-15 with more than 1,900 Republican registered voters, including a sample of 290 Gingrich supporters.
Some conservative Republicans have called for Gingrich to drop out of the race on the assumption that conservative primary voters would then unite behind Santorum as the conservative alternative to the more moderate Romney. But Gallup data indicate that Gingrich voters would not be likely to coalesce behind Santorum, suggesting that factors other than candidate ideology may be attracting voters to Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney.
Gallup can simulate Republican preferences without Gingrich in the race by removing Gingrich votes and reassigning them to his voters' second-choice candidate. The results of this procedure suggest that national GOP preferences would change little if Gingrich dropped out. The reconfigured preferences show Romney getting 40% of the vote and Santorum getting 33%. That seven-percentage-point Romney lead is essentially the same as the six-point (34% to 28%) Romney lead in March 8-15 interviewing with Gingrich support included.