WASHINGTON (AP) — A battle for the Republican presidential nomination that slogs on for months more? If that's what it takes for their candidate to prevail, most voters in Tuesday's Illinois GOP primary say it's not a problem.
Less than a third of them want the already prolonged GOP fight to end quickly, even if their favorite loses out, according to preliminary results of an exit poll Tuesday. About two thirds say they're happy to let the contest continue for months more, as long as their candidate comes out on top.
Illinois voters expressed that sentiment with the nomination fight already well into its third month and appearing likely to stretch into April and beyond.
Though former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a significant lead in rounding up the 1,144 delegates needed to prevail, his chief rivals — former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — have said they're staying in the race until the GOP convention in late August.
Around two-thirds of Illinois voters consider themselves conservative, ranking it among the less conservative of the states where voters have been surveyed so far. About 4 in 10 of them say they are white born-again or evangelical Christians, putting Illinois toward the middle of the pack by that measure.
The survey also showed continued worries about the economy. One in 5 say the economy is beginning to recover. About a third say it's staying the same, while almost half say it's getting worse.
As usual in state contests so far, the economy is the top issue. And the largest share of voters wants a candidate who can defeat President Barack Obama.
The survey of 1,078 Illinois voters was conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research. Interviews were conducted as voters left their polling places Tuesday at 35 randomly selected sites. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
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