LAS VEGAS -- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney enjoys a substantial lead over rival Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich among registered Nevada Republicans and those likely to attend Saturday's statewide presidential caucuses.
An 8NewsNow/Las Vegas Review-Journal telephone poll, conducted Friday through Tuesday by UNLV's Cannon Survey Center, found Romney favored by 44.5 percent of 608 registered Republicans polled, compared to only 24.2 percent for former House Speaker Gingrich. Fellow Republican candidates Rick Santorum (10.9 percent) and Ron Paul (9.1 percent) also remained well behind.
Among 426 of those respondents who said they planned to attend the caucuses, the outcome wasn't much different. Romney was favored by 45.4 percent of those individuals, versus 25.1 percent for Gingrich, 10.8 percent for Santorum and 9.2 percent for Paul.
The poll of registered Republicans had a 3.97 percent margin of error and the tally of likely caucus participants had a 4.75 percent margin of error. The results indicate that Romney's lead is safe even when factoring in the 9.5 percent of registered Republicans and 8.7 percent of likely caucus goers who say they haven't yet decided which candidate they'll support.
When a similar 8NewsNow/Las Vegas-Review Journal poll was released in December, Romney's lead over Gingrich was only 33.1 percent to 29.2 percent with Paul running third at 12.7 percent.
Romney, who won the Nevada Republican caucus in 2008, and the other contenders are competing for 28 Nevada delegates to the Republican National Convention in August in Tampa, Fla. Nevada's delegates will be awarded proportionally based on the caucus outcome.
The latest poll confirmed Romney's overwhelming strength among fellow Mormons, with 85.5 percent of respondents who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints indicating their support for him. Romney also enjoys broader support among respondents who follow other religions than is true of his competitors, though the margins of difference are far smaller.
Romney leads Gingrich 35.6 percent to 25.4 percent among Christians and 38.3 percent to 30.8 percent among Catholics but only 38.4 percent to 37 percent among Protestants. Among those belonging to other religions, Romney leads Gingrich 44 percent to 21.4 percent. Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, did his best among Christians (15.9 percent) while Texas Congressman Paul polled strongest among those of other religions (21.4 percent).
Romney also draws his strongest backing among Republicans under 35, attracting 55.6 percent of those polled compared to 17.5 percent for Paul and 12.7 percent for Gingrich. Among those aged 35 to 54, Romney is favored by 46 percent compared to 21.3 percent for Gingrich and 12.7 percent for Santorum.
Romney also is favored by 42.2 percent of Republicans 55 and older, compared to 32.3 percent for Gingrich and 10.4 percent for Santorum.
Among Republicans who strongly support the Tea Party, Gingrich holds the advantage with 37.1 percent support versus 26.5 percent for Romney and 19.9 percent for Santorum. But those who only somewhat support the Tea Party favor Romney by 53.4 percent to 22.1 percent for Gingrich, and those who support the Tea Party only a little back Romney over Gingrich 60.8 percent to 17.6 percent.
As for those who don't support the Tea Party, Romney gets the nod by 57.7 percent to 19.2 percent for Paul and 9.6 percent for Gingrich.
Of the registered Republicans polled, 89 percent are white and 6 percent have an Hispanic/Latino/Spanish background. The gender breakdown is roughly 52 percent male to 48 percent female.
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