PPP finds the same thing in its newest Florida poll that all surveys of the state have found in the last few days: strong movement away from Newt Gingrich and toward Mitt Romney. Romney now leads with 40% to 32% for Gingrich, 15% for Rick Santorum, and 9% for Ron Paul. Romney has gained 7 points and Gingrich has dropped by 6 since our last poll, which was conducted Sunday and Monday.
It's clear that the negative attacks on Gingrich have been the major difference maker over the last week. His net favorability has declined 13 points from +23 (57/34) to only +10 (50/40) in just five days. Romney has pretty much stayed in place. At the beginning of the week he was at +31 (61/30) and now he's at +33 (64/31).
Santorum is actually the most well liked candidate among Florida voters with 65% seeing him favorably to 24% with a negative opinion. In Iowa Santorum's persistently high favorability ratings were a precursor to his late surge. But as popular as he is, he's only gone from 13% to 15% support in the last week. It seems unlikely that he'll be able to break into the top two.
The backbone of Romney's support in Florida is senior citizens. He's getting 50% of their voters with Gingrich at only 28%. Romney also appears to have a pretty good sized lead in the bank. Among those who have already voted he's at 45% to 35% for Gingrich.
If you want a clue as to why Romney releasing his tax returns hasn't hurt him one little bit in Florida consider this: 68% of Republicans in the state have a favorable opinion of rich people to only 8% with a negative one. Romney's up 47-32 among those who like rich people. Here's a simple reality: in a GOP primary it's an asset to be rich and successful, not a liability. Attacks on Romney along those lines just aren't going to be effective with Republican voters. Additionally only 14% of voters have 'major concerns' about Romney's overseas bank accounts, while 56% have none at all.
3 other notes:
-56% of likely voters said they watched Thursday night's debate, and they support Romney 41-35. This is a major departure from what we've found in past polling among debate watchers, who tended to favor Gingrich by large margins. These numbers confirm the conventional wisdom that Thursday night was a rough one for Newt.
-Voters in South Carolina who were most concerned about electability voted for Newt, and our first post-South Carolina Florida poll showed equal numbers of voters seeing Gingrich and Romney as the candidate with the best chance of defeating Barack Obama. Those numbers have shifted in a major way over the last five days with 50% now seeing Romney as most electable to only 23% for Gingrich. Whether it's the attacks on Newt or a slew of polls released this week that showed Romney's competitive in Florida and Gingrich is not, he lost a lot of ground on that front.
-Finally Newt's most publicized proposal of the week is getting panned by Florida voters- only22% support a colony on the Moon while 52% are opposed. Even among Gingrich's own supporters only 34% favor it. I doubt this issue really has much to do with Newt's collapse in Florida but I don't think it's helping him either.
Full results here