GOP Voters Wish They Had Better 2012 Options

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Residents cast their ballots at a polling station in Alexandria
Republican voters are less enthused about their presidential candidates than in previous years.

Republican voters have been morose about their electoral options in 2012, and their mood is not improving going into New Hampshire's primary tomorrow, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

About half of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters said their candidates are excellent or good, while 44 percent rated them fair or poor. The figures have not deviated appreciably from surveys in previous months where 48 percent of voters gave the Republican field of candidates favorable ratings.

Dig a little deeper and a more distressing figure emerges for the GOP. The Republican electorate enters Tuesday's primary a house divided, as Tea Partiers and evangelicals have different preferences. Romney enjoys the support of the former to the tune of 29 percent, while Santorum and Gingrich pull in 14 and 13 percent respectively. Evangelicals are split between Romney and Santorum, at 22 percent each.  Meanwhile, independents and Republican-leaning voters are split evenly between Romney and Paul.

The broader American electorate is similarly split when presented with a choice between President Barack Obama and an unnamed GOP candidate. Voters were split over the decision at 41 percent each. Key independent voters are similarly split at 36 percent each.

The malaise over GOP voter options is a marked departure from just four years ago, when 68 percent of GOP voters responded favorably to their options at the polls. This year's election, however, has been a wholly different matter.

The question of voter enthusiasm has dogged the GOP as a whole during the 2012 campaign. Polls have shown six different candidates assuming frontrunner status during the race, taking turns leapfrogging former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has held a steady margin in the polls at around 25 percent.

Romney still holds a lead over his opponents, at 27 percent, with Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich tied for second with 16 percent each and Ron Paul at 12 percent. Earlier showings in the polls show candidates have been siphoning lost votes from each other. An early December for the former House Speaker at 33 percent has virtually evaporated in a month, with Santorum, Paul and to a lesser degree, Romney, making up Gingrich's the lost percentage.

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