Nearly three-quarters of GOP voters believe Mitt Romney will be their party's presidential nominee, according to a Pew Research Center poll released on Monday.
Seventy-four percent of Republican voters surveyed said they believed Romney would definitely be the party’s candidate in the fall, with only 21 percent saying it would be another candidate.
The poll also suggested Republican voters want the primary contest to end, something that could put pressure on Romney's remaining rivals to exit the race.
Forty-seven percent said the long-running primary is bad for the party, versus 36 percent who said they’d like to see the contest continue. In March, 47 percent said it was a good thing that the primary had not yet been decided, while 43 said it was a bad thing for the Party.
Romney’s favorability has steadily declined throughout the primary season, but Republicans are hopeful that the base will rally to his support once he secures the nomination.
The former Massachusetts governor has tightened his grip on the nomination in the last month, taking all three April primaries. He could deliver a knock-out blow to Rick Santorum, his chief rival, in Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania, where one recent poll showed Romney with a 5 percent lead. Pennsylvania's primary is set for April 24.
Romney has also pulled away from Santorum nationally, leading 42 percent to 25 percent, according to Gallup’s daily rolling average.
It’s not just Republicans that share the view that Romney is the inevitable nominee and that the ongoing primary is damaging for the GOP — 64 percent of Democrats said they believed Romney would be President Obama’s rival in the fall, and 63 percent said the ongoing primary is bad for Republicans.
Romney holds a more than two-to-one delegate lead over Santorum, but if the former senator can make it through April, the primary calendar could tip back in his favor, when contests take place in the Deep South, Plains states and Midwest, where Santorum has performed well.
The poll of 1,000 American voters was conducted between April 5 and April 8 and has a 4 percent margin of error.