A recent survey by the Pew Research Center finds the president has a 12-point lead over Mitt Romney, and leads Rick Santorum by 18 percent.
The 54-42 lead over Romney is a notable improvement in the last six months. A September/October study on the same topic found the president tied with the former Massachusetts governor (48-48).
Obama’s large lead over Santorum is also rapidly improving, according to the study. The 57-39 advantage over the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania was only a 10-point difference of 53-43 one month ago.
The Pew study found national public support improving for the Democratic Party overall, as well, and in practically all demographic categories.
In the last 12 months, the favorable-to-unfavorable reception of Democrats improved to 49-43, while negative reception of the Republican Party grew from 48 percent to 56.
Included in the demographic categories of voters who favor Democrats much more substantially than Republicans are women (16 percent difference), voters under 30 years of age (20 percent) and college graduates (24 percent).
The only group that regards the Democratic Party with more disfavor than favorability is upper-income households, the study finds. Only 47 percent of voters who earn more than $75,000 regard Democrats favorably, while 50 percent find the party unfavorable.
This same group of upper-income voters have even higher disregard for the GOP, though; 58 percent of them regard the Republican Party with disfavor, while only 40 percent favor them.
In other words, upper-income voters are still more likely to support Democrats than Republicans.
This demographic group is small, too. Less than a third of all American households (31.6 percent) earn more than $75,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
While the Pew study was conducted nationally, its results do raise questions in the Palmetto State. Neither of the currently-leading candidates did well in the South Carolina primary, with Romney taking 27.9 percent and Santorum only 17, trailing Newt Gingrich’s 40.4 percent of the vote.
Romney won two delegates in that Jan. 21 contest, they coming exclusively from the state’s first congressional district, which includes Horry County and parts of Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester and Georgetown counties.
Winner Gingrich took 23 delegates, leading in 43 of the South Carolina’s 46 counties, and Santorum won no delegates.
Today, however, Gingrich ranks a distant third in total number of delegates accumulated, holding only 131 in comparison to Romney’s 495 and Santorum’s 252.
A CNN exit poll conducted on the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary election found that only 36 percent of the state’s participating Republicans would openly support Romney. About half (51 percent) said they would have reservations supporting him, while 13 percent of those active Republicans in the state would not support Romney at all, they said.
Pew Research conducted its survey on Mar. 7-11, and the full results are available for downloading.
A nonpartisan think tank based in Washington D.C, Pew Research Center regularly conducts studies on politics, elections, domestic policy, economics, demography, religion and social trends, amongst other subjects.