JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Florida is up for grabs when it comes to next week's Republican primary, according to a new Dixie Strategies/First Coast News poll.
According to the new results out today, Newt Gingrich leads over Mitt Romney statewide, but his lead is well within the poll's1.93 percent margin of error.
MORE: FULL DIXIE STRATEGIES/FIRST COAST NEWS PUBLIC OPINION SURVEY
In the three days leading up to Thursday's debate at the University of North Florida, First Coast News and St. Augustine-based Dixie Strategies commissioned the Dixie Strategies/First Coast News Public Opinion Survey, a poll of Republicans throughout the state who described themselves as "likely" voters in the Jan. 31 primary.
When asked, "If the Republican Presidential Primary were held today, for whom would you vote?," 35.46 percent of the 2,567 likely voters polled selected former House speaker Gingrich, and 35.08 percent selected Romney.
MORE: Political Florida
The same question showed former senator Rick Santorum in a distant third place with 9.38 percent, followed by Ron Paul's 7.42 percent.
Nearly 4 percent of the respondents (3.93) chose "someone else," and 8.74 percent said they were undecided.
Digging deeper, ex-Massachusetts governor Romney had the highest percentage of voters with a "very positive" opinion of him, with 29.06 percent compared to Gingrich's 27.64 percent.
Expanding the results to include "very positive" and "somewhat positive," Romney got 67.25 percent, to Gingrich's 56.25. Santorum scored higher than Gingrich in overall positivity: 60.75 percent, though his "somewhat positive" was twice as high as his "very positive." Texas representative Paul scored 31.46 percent combined.
Paul also has the highest percentage of voters who hold a negative view. Combining "somewhat" and "very" negative, Paul's 58.38 percent is far more than Gingrich's 37.2 percent, the next largest percentage among voters holding a negative opinion.
With the vote too close to call, the poll asked voters what the most important issues in the campaign are.
Far ahead of standard Republican issues such as taxes (1.74 percent) and defense (4.73), voters said the economy is the number one issue (41.61) ahead of electability (28.92).
Romney's support is highest among Asian, Hispanic and American Indian voters, whereas Gingrich scores highest among white and black voters.
The poll finds women support Romney over Gingrich 36.21 to 33.96 percent, and men prefer Gingrich over Romney 37.30 to 33.17 percent.
Broken down by age, Romney and Gingrich are in an exact tie -- 34.78 percent -- among respondents 18-25 years old. Romney had the highest support in the 26-35 bracket and those over 62, with Gingrich in second place.
Gingrich had the most support among those in the 36-45, 45-55 and 56-61 brackets, with Romney second in each.
Since the numbers by age, race and gender continue to show a dead heat between Gingrich and Romney, the poll asked the voters who their next choice would be if not their preferred candidate.
Gingrich supporters, who show a 96 percent positive view of Gingrich, picked Santorum next by a large margin, with "undecided" as the third choice.
Romney supporters, 95.67 percent positive for Romney, prefer Paul next, who scored slightly higher than Gingrich.
Santorum's supporters prefer Gingrich next with 67.01 percent, to Romney's 55.05.
On the issue of economic policy -- the number one issue the voters cited in this election -- Paul scored the highest, with 47.26 percent, ahead of Gingrich (44.50) and Romney (43.14).
The other top issue -- electability -- shows the voters preferring Romney, whose 37.25 percent is ahead of Gingrich's 29.72. Santorum and Paul each scored under 20 percent.
The Florida primary is Jan. 31. Early voting concludes Sunday.
First Coast News