(Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder)
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is now the only candidate that a majority of Republicans would find acceptable as the Republican nominee, according to a new Gallup poll.
Fifty-nine percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents answered that the former Massachusetts governor would be “an acceptable nominee for president from the Republican Party.”
The next most acceptable candidates were former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Governor Rick Perry, with 46 percent, 45 percent and 37 percent, respectively.
The candidates that the fewest number of respondents found acceptable were Texas Congressman Ron Paul (29 percent) and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman (21 percent).
Romney's acceptability was the same regardless of the ideology of the respondent.
This is not true among the rest of the candidates. For instance, 51 percent of conservatives find Gingrich acceptable, but only 36 percent of moderates and liberals found him acceptable. Similarly, Santorum was acceptable among 50 percent of conservatives, but only 35 percent of moderates and liberals.
Romney's acceptability rating has slightly increased from a month ago when it was 54 percent. In the same month, Gingrich's acceptability saw a significant drop from 62 percent, and Santorum saw a dramatic increase, from 27 percent.
While Romney is the most acceptable candidate, a recent CBS News poll shows there are not high levels of enthusiasm behind his candidacy. Fifty-eight percent of potential Republican primary voters said they are not satisfied with the current field of candidates. Moreover, only 27 percent said they enthusiastically support Romney's candidacy.
Santorum received the highest level of enthusiasm for his candidacy at 33 percent.
Romney's acceptability sans enthusiasm demonstrated by these polls is consistent with popular perceptions of Romney. He is viewed by many in the Republican Party as electable and without any particularly offensive traits, but also not particularly exciting. Many Republican elites have been hoping for a candidate who could both win a general election and arouse the Republican base.
The popular image of Romney has even been satirized on NBC's “Saturday Night Live.” In one mid-October skit, a Romney impersonator joked, “Barack Obama made America say, 'yes, we can.' Well I think I can make them say, 'yes, we can ... live with that.'”
Romney is also widely seen as the most likely nominee among pundits and prognosticators. He won last week's Iowa caucus by only eight votes over Santorum. The most recent Suffolk University/7News poll conducted in New Hampshire over the weekend shows Romney leading in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary with 37 percent support. Polls also show him leading in the next two primaries in South Carolina and Florida.
The Gallup poll was conducted on Jan. 5 -8 with a national random sample of 479 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. The margin of error is plus or minus six percentage points.