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Iowa voters see Gingrich, Romney as most electable

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

If next month's the Iowa Republican caucus comes down to electability in the general election, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney appear to have a distinct advantage.

In a CBS News/New York Times poll released Tuesday, 31 percent of likely Iowa caucus-goers said Gingrich had the best chance among the current GOP field to defeat President Barack Obama in 2012. Twenty-nine percent said Romney had the best chance.

Poll: Gingrich takes double-digit lead over Romney in Iowa

All other candidates polled in the single-digits on the electability question: Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 9 percent, Rep. Ron Paul with 6 percent, Rep. Michele Bachmann with 3 percent, and both Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum with 1 percent.

Among Tea Party supporters, the perception of Gingrich as the candidate best-equipped to defeat Mr. Obama is even more pronounced - 45 percent view him as having the best chances to beat Mr. Obama, compared with 19 percent for Romney.

The poll also found that the economy far outweighs social issues among Iowa caucus-goers - 71 percent said the economy will play a bigger factor in determining their vote, compared with 14 percent who said social issues would. Thirteen percent said they would weigh both equally.

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Even among white evangelicals, a Republican voter group that traditionally factors social issues more prominently in their voting decisions, economic issues matter more by a tally of 55 percent to 25 percent. Eighteen percent said they would weigh both equally.

The Iowa caucus will take place Jan. 3.

Read the complete poll results here.

CBS News and The New York Times conducted telephone interviews November 30 -December 5, 2011 with 642 registered voters who said they would definitely or probably attend the Republican caucus in Iowa. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four points for caucus-goers.

The sample was drawn from two sources: the state of Iowa's registered voter list, and an RDD sample of cell phone interviews.

Results were weighted by probabilities of selection and by demographic characteristics to reflect the eligible caucus-goers on the Iowa voter list.

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