Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is atop the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates in the third-consecutive poll in the past 24 hours, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney close behind.
The latest poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University and released on early Tuesday, shows Gingrich leading Romney, 26 percent to 22 percent. Embattled businessman Herman Cain was third, with 14 percent. No other candidate was in double digits: Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, each had 6 percent.
In late October, Cain led Romney, 30 percent to 23 percent. Gingrich was a distant third, at just 10 percent.
Gingrich leads Romney among conservative voters, 30 percent to 21 percent, while Romney has an 11-point lead among those who identify as moderates.
When Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters were asked to choose between the top two candidates, 49 percent preferred Gingrich and 39 percent chose Romney.
Asked about which candidate they think would do the best job handling the economy, 27 percent of Republicans chose Romney, while 25 percent picked Gingrich. But on foreign policy, Gingrich is preferred to Romney by a wide margin, 46 percent to 16 percent.
Forty-eight percent of Republicans preferred Gingrich when it comes to having "the knowledge and experience necessary to be a good president," while just 22 percent selected Romney. But Romney leads on the question of which candidate has "a strong moral character," with 32 percent. Just 9 percent chose the twice-divorced Gingrich.
Romney is preferred for electability: 38 percent of Republicans think he is the candidate most able to defeat President Obama in the general election. And a majority of Republicans, 52 percent, think Romney is the most likely to win the nomination, compared with just 19 percent who say Gingrich is the most likely nominee.
Despite Gingrich's slight advantage in the GOP primary, Romney remains the stronger general-election candidate, according to the poll. Among all registered voters, Obama led Romney by just 1 point, 45 percent to 44 percent. Romney trailed by 5 points in late October.
Gingrich, on the other hand, trailed Obama by a significant margin, 49 percent to 40 percent. In late October, Obama led by 15 points, 52 percent to 37 percent.
The Quinnipiac poll was conducted Nov. 14-20, surveying 2,552 registered voters. The margin of error for the full poll is +/- 1.9 percent. There were 1,039 Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters for the GOP primary, for a margin of error of +/- 3.0 percent.
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