Dennis Woltering / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS A new, exclusive statewide poll of likely Republican voters in Louisiana conducted for WWL-TV shows voters favoring Rick Santorum, with the primary election two weeks away.

The telephone poll of 515 likely Republican voters reveals Santorum leading the field, with just over 25 percent of the vote.

Mitt Romney places second with just under 21 percent and is in a virtual tie with Newt Gingrich, who has almost 20 percent. Ron Paul is way behind, with less than 6 percent. Undecided gets the biggest score of all -- 26 percent.

WWL-TV election analyst Greg Rigamer, whose firm, GCR & Associates, conducted the survey from March 8-10, stresses this is a poll of Republicans with a very significant voting history.

'We would expect that in a low turnout election,' Rigamer said.

Break the poll down by gender and you find a couple of interesting points. Thirty-four percent of Republican women are undecided, compared to 17 percent of Republican men.

'So there are twice as many undecided female voters as male voters in this primary,' Rigamer said.

Santorum, a former Senator and Congressman from Pennsylvania, leads the survey among both women and men, but his lead over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney among men is so close it falls within the poll's 4.4 percent margin of error.

'Statistically, among the male Republican vote, these candidates are equal,' Rigamer said.

Break the poll down by Congressional district and you find that Santorum leads in the 3rd, 4th and 6th congressional districts. Santorum ties with Gingrich in the 7th district, which covers southwest Louisiana. Gingrich ties with Romney in the 5th congressional district, in northeast Louisiana, and Romney wins in the 1st and 2nd districts, which include the metro New Orleans area.

It is the second district, which includes New Orleans, that gives Romney the biggest boost, with 50 percent of the vote.

'So even among the Republican voters in Orleans Parish, we see a more liberal tendency,' Rigamer said.

Santorum fares better statewide, when you consider the change Louisiana has seen toward a more conservative state over the past decade, which is clear in the WWL-TV survey.

In 2003, the vast majority of parishes voted Democratic for Louisiana's nine statewide offices. In 2007, the map shows a trend away from Democrats, and in 2011 the map is red almost everywhere, with statewide Republican office holders taking over the state.

'It clearly demonstrates that ratcheting to the conservative philosophy for Louisiana, hence you'll see more Santorum support,' Rigamer said of the conservative candidate.

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