Fox Poll: 80% Say Ability to Beat Obama ‘Very Important’ Factor for GOP Candidate, More So Than Policy Views

By Matt Cover | January 17, 2012 | 3:01 PM EST

Republican presidential candidates, from left to right: Texas Gov. Rick Perry; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, pose for a photo at the start of the South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

( – Eighty percent of Republican voters say that a candidate’s ability to defeat President Barack Obama in the November election – not their policy or ideological credentials – is the most important attribute they consider when evaluating the current GOP field.

The question, posed by a Fox News poll conducted January 12-14 of 906 registered voters, showed that GOP voters are far more concerned with defeating Obama than they are with a candidate’s policy views or ideological purity.

Only 47 percent of GOP voters said it was “very important” that a candidate’s policy views line up with their own. Forty-two percent said it was “very important” that a candidate be a “true conservative.”

However, 80 percent said it was “very important” that a candidate be able to beat Obama in the general election.

The candidate that GOP voters thought had the best chance to beat Obama was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 63 percent, according to the Fox poll. No other candidate got double-digit support in that category, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) coming in second with 9 percent. (The poll was conducted before the Republican primary debate on Jan. 16)

Given that Romney leads in the category that voters apparently care most about, it is unsurprising that he has jumped out to a large national lead of 40 percent among Republican voters. His nearest competitors, Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) are virtually tied, with 14 and 15 percent respectively. Among all voters, GOP and non-GOP, Romney has a 45-percent approval rating, according to the Fox poll.

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Mannie Garcia, File)

In a head-to-head matchup between Romney and Obama, the two are statistically tied with 46 percent choosing Obama and 45 percent choosing Romney.

However, support for each candidate varies between hypothetical Obama and Romney voters.  Among those who said they would vote for Obama, 74 percent said their vote was for Obama, while 21 percent said it was a vote against Romney. Among hypothetical Romney voters, 58 percent said theirs was a vote against Obama, while only 33 percent said theirs was a pro-Romney vote.

Republican voters are almost evenly split on which type of candidate could best beat Obama in November – a conservative or a moderate.

According to the Fox poll, 49 percent said a moderate Republican who could appeal to independent voters would have the best chance of beating Obama while 43 percent said a conservative candidate who could provide the sharpest contrast would fare best.