The poll, released by Watchdog.org -- a project of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity in Alexandria, Va., found 37 percent of likely GOP voters heading into Tuesday's New Hampshire primary prefer Romney. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was second with 19 percent, followed by former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman at 16 percent and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania with 14 percent.
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich was favored by 9 percent in the poll, conducted Jan. 4 by telephone among 865 likely voters.
In a separate poll of 1,482 statewide voters from all political parties, 70 percent said the country is heading in the wrong direction and 50 percent of likely voters said they would choose a Republican nominee over President Barack Obama.
The telephone surveys were conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, using automated polling methodology and procedures licensed from Rasmussen Reports.
Watchdog.org is made up of journalists who cover state and local government. The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity is a national non-profit journalism organization that says it "aims to educate, to advise, and to train individuals and organizations from all backgrounds to become thorough, unbiased, and responsible reporters well versed in new media techniques and journalistic integrity."
The margin of error was 3 percentage points.