Very close race in both Alabama and Mississippi

Raleigh, N.C. – Tuesday looks like it’s going to be a close election night in both
Mississippi and Alabama. In Mississippi Newt Gingrich is holding on to a slight lead
with 33% to 31% for Mitt Romney, 27% for Rick Santorum, and 7% for Ron Paul. And
Alabama is even closer with Romney at 31% to 30% for Gingrich, 29% for Santorum,
and 8% for Paul.

Gingrich and Santorum are both more popular than Romney in each of these states. In
Mississippi Gingrich’s net favorability is +33 (62/29) to +32 for Santorum (60/28) and
+10 for Romney (51/41). It’s a similar story in Alabama where Santorum’s at +32 (63/31),
Gingrich is at +26 (58/32), and Romney’s at only +13 (53/40).

The reason Romney has a chance to win despite being less popular in both states is the
split in the conservative vote. In Mississippi 44% of voters describe themselves as ‘very
conservative’ and Romney’s getting only 26% with them. But he’s still in the mix because
Gingrich leads Santorum only 35-32 with them. In Alabama where 45% of voters identify
as ‘very conservative,’ Romney’s at just 24%. But again he remains competitve overall
because his opponents are so tightly packed with those voters, with Santorum at 37% and
Gingrich at 31%.

It’s not really clear who, if anyone, has the momentum in these states. In Mississippi folks
who’ve decided in the last few days go for Gingrich over Santorum 37-29 with Romney
at only 15%. But in Alabama the late deciders go 38-29 for Romney over Santorum with
Gingrich at 23%.

“About all we know for sure about Tuesday’s primaries is that Ron Paul will finish last in
them,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “Beyond that it’s plausible
that any of the candidates could finish between first and third in both Alabama and
Mississippi.”

PPP surveyed 656 likely Republican voters in Mississippi and 600 likely Republican
primary voters in Alabama on March 10th and 11th. The margin of error for the
Mississippi poll is +/-3.8% and for the Alabama poll it’s +/-4.0%.

This poll was not paid for or authorized by any campaign or political organization. PPP
surveys are conducted through automated telephone interviews.

PPP
3/12/12