Rick Santorum leads Mitt Romney, 41-35 percent, in Pennsylvania, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.
Pennsylvania, which holds its presidential primary April 24, is a crucial state for Santorum, a U.S. senator from that state from 1995 to 2007. He lost his re-election bid in 2006 by 18 percentage points.
The survey shows that while he's ahead in the GOP primary this year, the race is volatile. 37 percent of those who could name a candidate said they could still change their minds. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has a wide lead in GOP convention delegates.
To read full details: www.quinnipiac.edu
Here's the text of the Quinnipiac release:
Favorite Son Rick Santorum leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 41 - 35 percent among likely voters in Pennsylvania's Republican presidential primary, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has 10 percent, with 7 percent for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
With three weeks before the primary, 6 percent of likely voters remain undecided and 37 percent of those who name a candidate say they still could change their mind, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. This is the first look at likely voters and cannot be compared with earlier surveys of registered voters.
Santorum tops Romney 43 - 33 percent among men, while women split 39 - 38 percent. Santorum also leads 53 - 24 percent among white evangelical Christians, 50 - 32 percent among Tea Party members and 48 - 30 percent among self-described conservatives. Romney is ahead 45 - 29 percent among self-described moderates.
"The Keystone State is critical for Sen. Rick Santorum, the native son who must win to reasonably continue the race for the presidency," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Can Santorum hold on against Gov. Mitt Romney's money machine which has turned the tide in other states, washing away Santorum's early leads?
"Pennsylvania is a critical swing state, so the Republican primary winner wants to make a good showing in April to bolster chances for success in November."
By a 59 - 22 percent margin, Pennsylvania likely Republican primary voters have a favorable opinion of Romney, compared to 64 - 24 percent favorable for Santorum, a slightly negative 33 - 36 percent for Paul and a positive 44 - 39 percent favorable for Gingrich.
It's better for the Republican Party if Santorum stays in the race, 57 percent of likely primary voters say, while 33 percent say it's better for the party if Santorum drops out.
Pennsylvania likely Republican primary voters also see native son Santorum as more principled than Romney, saying:
52 - 7 percent that Santorum has more honesty and integrity than most people in public life, with 36 percent saying about the same;
25 - 14 percent that Romney has more honesty and integrity than most people in public life, with 55 percent saying about the same;
49 - 8 percent that Santorum changes his position less often than most public figures, with 38 percent saying about the same;
27 - 7 percent that Romney changes his position more than most public figures, with 60 percent saying about the same;
49 - 41 percent that Santorum changes his position on issues because of politics rather than principle;
74 - 17 percent that Romney changes his position on issues because of politics rather than principle.