A new Pew poll of Republican adults shows that Mitt Romney is the top choice among voters who identify with the Tea Party to win the Republican presidential nomination.
In addition, the poll showed Romney tied with Mike Huckabee as the top choice among conservative voters, a crucial demographic in Republican primaries, and one which Romney has previously struggled to court. When combined with Romney’s strong performance with more moderate Republicans, the survey shows the former Massachusetts Governor with a broad support base.
Pew’s poll, it should be noted, has a very small sample size of just 260 Republicans, and a high 7.5% margin of error.
In the poll, 24% of respondents who said they agreed with the Tea Party named Romney their top choice to be the Republican nominee, compared to 19% for Mike Huckabee, and 15% for Newt Gingrich. Just 12% of that group named Sarah Palin, who courted the Tea Party in 2010 by endorsing many of its members’ preferred candidates, like Alaska’s Joe Miller and Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell.
Twenty percent of self-identified conservatives voters named Romney their top choice for the GOP nod, the same percentage who backed Mike Huckabee.
Those findings run counter to previous polls of the Republican field, which showed Romney trailing badly among conservative voters. A November PPP poll showed Romney drawing support from just 15% of conservatives, while Huckabee and Palin earned support from 22% and 21%, respectively. A Gallup poll released last month also showed 15% of conservatives breaking for Romney, while 21% went for Huckabee.
In December, Tom Jensen from Public Policy Polling even wrote a post titled, “Romney’s Conservative Problem,” in which he pointed out that Romney posted the worst favorability rating of the four big-name potential candidates — Romney, Huckabee, Gingrich, and Palin — in seven of the eight state’s they’d polled to that point.
Romney has consistently been the top choice among moderate Republican voters, a trend that continued in the latest poll. Twenty-three percent of moderate GOPers broke for Romney, while 22% picked Huckabee.
With support from both sides of the Republican Party, Romney was the top choice overall in Pew’s poll, at 21%, followed by Huckabee at 20%, Sarah Palin at 13%, and Gingrich at 12%.