The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday June 9th

Romney leads slightly in Illinois poll

CHICAGO, (MCT) — Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney’s campaign has long considered Illinois to be in its win column, but a new poll shows the candidate has some work to do to make that a reality.

The Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV survey found Romney slightly ahead of Rick Santorum, 35 percent to 31 percent — within the poll’s 4-percentage-point margin of error. Trailing far behind were Newt Gingrich with 12 percent and Rep. Ron Paul with 7 percent. Sixteen percent were undecided.

There’s room for movement ahead of Illinois’ March 20 primary, however. Forty-six percent of voters said they could change their minds before the primary.

The survey of 600 confirmed registered voters likely to vote in the Illinois Republican primary was conducted Wednesday through Friday, before Santorum won the party caucuses in Kansas.

Illinois was expected to be a firewall for Romney after Tuesday primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, where he has lowered expectations. There are typically more moderate GOP voters in Chicago’s suburbs, and the poll showed Romney is doing well there.

In Cook County, he leads Santorum 39 percent to 30 percent. In the more heavily Republican collar counties, Romney held a 39 percent to 27 percent edge.

But Santorum holds a 35 percent to 29 percent advantage in the 96 counties outside the Chicago area, where Republican voters tend to be more conservative.

As exit polling of earlier primary states has shown, Romney continues to struggle among voters who describe themselves as very conservative and question the former Massachusetts governor’s conservative credentials.

Among very conservative voters in Illinois — 29 percent of the GOP electorate — Santorum was backed by 43 percent, compared with 29 percent for Romney.

The trend ran the other direction among the 31 percent of Republican voters who call themselves moderate: Romney is favored by 39 percent to Santorum’s 17 percent.

That leaves those who call themselves fairly conservative, almost 40 percent of Republican primary voters. They give a narrow edge to Romney over Santorum, 36 percent to 32 percent.

While Romney has largely stuck to economic issues in trying to appeal to voters, Santorum has also used a conservative social message in an effort to win backing of Christian conservatives.

In Illinois, 42 percent of voters described themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians. Of that group, 42 percent are backing Santorum compared with 26 percent for Romney.

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