GOP voters perceive Newt Gingrich as running the most negative campaign in this year's Republican presidential contest, according to a new poll on Monday.
Twenty-nine percent of registered Republican voters said Gingrich's campaign has been the "nastiest" this cycle, according to the national survey released by Fox News.
Mitt Romney leads the field for positive campaign perception, at 27 percent.
Romney also leads the field overall, chosen by 40 percent of voters surveyed as their preferred Republican presidential nominee, a jump from the last national Fox News poll in December that had Romney at 23 percent. Rick Santorum came in second with 15 percent, followed by Gingrich with 14 percent, Ron Paul with 13 percent and Rick Perry with 6 percent.
Santorum polled ahead of the field in one category: When Republican voters were asked which candidate was the "true conservative," Santorum earned 29 percent compared to Romney's 15.
The poll also found that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE's favorability rating continues its upward trend. The secretary of State leads the pack at 63 percent favorable, followed by first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama looks to mobilize voters for midterms We must mount an all-country response to help our Afghan allies Obamas, Bushes and Clintons joining new effort to help Afghan refugees MORE with 60 percent and President Obama — who also earned a 47 percent disapproval rating elsewhere in the poll — with 51 percent.
Romney placed further down but ahead of the rest of the GOP field for favorability at 45 percent.
The poll found that although 52 percent believe Obama will win reelection, in a head-to-head vote between Obama and Romney as the GOP nominee, Obama takes 46 percent of the vote, in a tight race, compared to Romney's 45. Ron Paul becomes a spoiler, acting as a hypothetical independent candidate, taking 14 percent of the vote and leaving Obama with 42 percent and Romney with 35 percent.
The survey also asked voters who chose Romney whether their choice was based more on Romney or reflected a vote against Obama, and 58 percent explained their choice as a vote against Obama, whereas 33 percent voted specifically for Romney. The question provides further evidence for the argument that Romney has failed to excite his base as a candidate.
Romney also continues to win the electability argument, with 63 percent picking the former Massachusetts governor when asked which candidate has the best chance of beating Obama.
The national telephone poll was taken Jan. 12-14 and conducted by Anderson Robbins Research and Shaw & Co. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.