A new poll shows Mitt Romney catapulting over a large Republican presidential field in which few candidates earn enthusiastic support from tepid voters.
A University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll released by The Boston Globe gave Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, a strong lead over his GOP brethren -- 41 percent of likely primary voters. The next closest candidate is former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, with 9 percent even though he has not said whether he will enter the race.
According to the poll, the rest of the candidates earned 1 to 6 percent of voter support. Texas Rep. Ron Paul led the pack with 6 percent followed by Sarah Palin at 5 percent, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and businessman Herman Cain at 4 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty all banked 3 percent.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson received less than 1 percent in the poll of 954 New Hampshire adults taken between June 1-8 . The margin of error was 3.2 percent.
The support for Romney could change. As many as 76 percent of those polled said they hadn't made up their minds yet.
But the poll comports with an ABC News/Washington Post poll that shows Romney's Mormon religion is much less an issue for Republican voters than it was in 2008. In December 2006, 36 percent of Republican leaning voters said they would be less apt to support a Mormon. Now, that number is 20 percent, and remains highest among evangelical white Protestants, though that group is still less resistant than it was in 2006.
The poll showed that fidelity and gay marriage are much more important to primary voters than sex or race of a candidate.
The national sample of 1,002 adults, including 435 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents taken June 2-5, has a margin of sampling error of 5.5 points.
In both polls, changes to Medicare were critical to voters, with fewer than 30 percent of New Hampshire voters in the University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll supporting cuts to Medicare and Social Security.