New CBS poll sheds light on why Republican voters aren’t enthused about Romney

by Ryan Streeter on December 21, 2011. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

When you dig into the new CBS poll, you get a sense of why Romney’s jet hasn’t achieved full lift-off despite the fact that he’s been firing the engines full-force for awhile now.

While the poll has some fairly predictable numbers on things such as who says what he believes (Gingrich) and who stands the best chance of beating Obama (Romney), the poll contains this illuminating question: Who will fight hardest for his/her economic policies? Respondents line up like this:

    • Gingrich: 33%
    • Paul: 20%
    • Romney: 15%
    • Bachmann: 9%
    • Perry: 8%
    • Santorum: 4%
    • Huntsman: 1%

Being a fighter – even if it leads you to say strange things from time to time – is a valued characteristic among primary voters, especially on economic issues. The fact that Gingrich and Romney line up closely throughout this poll on other issues makes the difference between them on this point rather telling.

This matters even more when you look a bit farther into the poll and find this statistic:

When asked whether a candidate’s views on economic issues or social issues will matter more to how respondents vote, 71% of white evangelicals said “economic issues” compared to 24% who said “social issues.” This isn’t very different from GOP primary voters as a whole, who split 76% to 20% on this question.

So even religious conservatives are voting overwhelmingly with their checkbooks this time around. One might think this would help Romney, since his relationship with evangelicals is a bit precarious, but the fact that primary voters don’t think he’s all that serious about fighting for his economic plan hurts him all the more.

This is just more evidence that running as the best “manager” in the room is insufficient in most voters’ minds.

Perhaps his new “entitlement society vs. opportunity society” will change this dynamic. It’s hard to say, but one thing seems clear: poll respondents also say that Romney is the most likely to say what he thinks people want to hear rather than what he believes (half said this), so any new thematic will have to be executed with a new kind of authenticity that voters haven’t seen from him yet.