(Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder)
Republican presidential candidate front-runner Mitt Romney is comfortably leading in support from registered GOP voters in California, but his likely win in the June 5 primary will be without much enthusiasm, a new poll has shown.
Romney got support from 42 percent of registered Republican voters and his main rival, Rick Santorum, was trailing by as much as 19 points, according to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released Saturday. However, half of the state's Republican voters said they wished other candidates were running for president.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul were a distant third and fourth place, according to the poll conducted for The Los Angeles Times and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences about three months ahead of the scheduled primary in California.
The Times quoted Barbara Foley, a 73-year-old Republican, as saying that she decided to vote for former Massachusetts Gov. Romney by process of elimination. "I vote the lesser of two evils, unfortunately," she said, complaining that America under President Barack Obama had grown increasingly socialist. "Mitt Romney is the lesser of the evils."
However, the poll found that Romney's prospects against Obama among voters in California were not bright. Obama led Romney by 21 points, Paul by 28 points, former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum by 29 and Gingrich by 32.
Overall, 57 percent of California voters approve of the job being done by President Obama, up seven points among Californians since the previous USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll conducted in November 2011. Thirty-eight percent of voters said they disapprove of the president's job performance.
On the other hand, voters in the state had an overall negative impression of all of the Republican candidates. Romney was most liked among the voters, with 37 percent saying they had a favorable view of him. Paul was viewed favorably by 30 percent, Santorum by 28 percent and Gingrich by 25 percent.
The poll surveyed 1,500 registered voters by phone between March 14 and 19. The survey has an overall margin of error of 2.9 percentage points in either direction.
As of Saturday, Romney had 478 bound delegates, Santorum 182, Gingrich 133 and Ron Paul 26. Another 322 delegates are unbound, mainly from states that held caucuses. While Romney is clearly the front-runner, Santorum is trying to prevent him from getting the required 1,144 delegates to clinch the Republican presidential nomination.