Romney Seen as More Presidential, Sincere Than Gingrich
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Romney Seen as More Presidential, Sincere Than Gingrich

Candidates are tied on understanding the problems Americans face

PRINCETON, NJ -- Mitt Romney leads Newt Gingrich, 59% to 39%, in U.S. registered voters' perceptions that each "has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have." Romney also has solid advantages for being "sincere and authentic" and able to manage the government effectively. Romney and Gingrich are about tied, however, on understanding the problems Americans face in their daily lives.

Personal Characteristics of Romney and Gingrich -- Based on U.S. Registered Voters, January 2012

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These findings are based on registered voters nationally, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted as part of Jan. 27-28 Gallup Daily tracking.

Swing-State Voters' Ratings Mirror National Findings

A parallel USA Today/Gallup Swing States poll, conducted Jan. 24-28, finds similar reactions among registered voters in the 12 states poised to be the most hotly contested in the general election this fall.

In the swing states, Romney is far more likely than Gingrich to be considered presidential as well as sincere. He ties Gingrich on perceptions that he identifies with average Americans. Only on perceptions that he can manage the government effectively does Romney not do as well in the swing states as he does nationally, barely edging ahead of Gingrich, 52% to 48%.

Personal Characteristics of Romney and Gingrich; Ratings Among Registered Voters in 12 Swing States, January 2012

The 12 states included in this swing-state sample include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Just as Romney's ratings for being presidential and sincere suggest he garners a certain amount of voters' respect that could serve him well in these battleground states if he becomes the Republican nominee, both his and Gingrich's image weaknesses point to areas President Obama might exploit. Majorities of swing-state voters say Gingrich is not sincere and authentic (56%) and does not have the personality and leadership qualities to be president (53%). Nearly half (49%) doubt Romney can identify with average Americans.

Republicans Rate Both Romney and Gingrich Well

These evaluations may not be as relevant in the GOP nomination process, given that majorities of Republican and Republican-leaning voters nationwide view both Gingrich and Romney positively on all four dimensions, with Romney's scores somewhat higher on most.

Naturally, Democrats' (including Democratic-leaning independents') ratings of both candidates are far lower than Republicans' ratings. However, Democrats' ratings of Gingrich are particularly low, helping to account for the former House speaker's relatively weak national image ratings.

Candidate Characteristics -- by Party ID Among U.S. Registered Voters, January 2012

The overall ratings do speak clearly to the potential strength of the candidates as nominees this fall. The same USA Today/Gallup polling shows Romney about even with Obama among registered voters nationally and in the swing states, while Gingrich trails Obama by more than 10 percentage points.

How much importance GOP primary voters are putting on electability in November is unclear. When Gallup last measured Republicans' criteria for selecting a nominee, in November, 47% said nominating the person most able to beat Obama was paramount to them, while 45% said they would back the person who most closely agrees with them on the issues.

Bottom Line

One of Romney's potential strengths as a GOP nominee is that voters see him as presidential and sincere. Slim majorities nationally and in the crucial swing states also believe he could manage the government well if elected, which may be his most valuable calling card at a time when Americans are utterly dissatisfied with the way the government is being run. Identifying with average Americans, however, is a relative weakness for Romney. While this is not typically a strong suit for Republicans, Romney's tepid rating could also be owing to his well-publicized wealth, with the amount he pays in taxes each year exceeding what most Americans earn in a lifetime.

Gingrich's image is quite different. Among the four characteristics measured in the poll, his ratings are highest for managing the government and understanding the problems Americans face, while sincerity and presidential temperament are relative weaknesses. Regardless, all of his ratings are below 50%, and none exceeds Romney's.

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Survey Methods

Results for swing state residents are based on telephone interviews from Jan. 24-28, 2012, in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking with a random sample of 737 registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

The data represent a subset of Gallup's national daily tracking survey for Jan. 24-28, and are proportionate to population size of each state. Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone-only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

The weighted and unweighted sample sizes for each state are shown here:

Election 2012 Swing-States Poll Sample Sizes, January 2012

Results for the national sample are based on telephone interviews from Jan. 27-28, 2012, in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking, with a random sample of 907 registered voters, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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