Survey of Republicans Shows Wide Open Field for 2012

Politics   Steven Ertelt   Feb 23, 2011   |   5:09PM    Washington, DC

A new Gallup survey of Republican voters and Republican-leaning independents shows a wide-open field for 2012 with no candidate holding any lead and none becoming the consensus candidate of GOP voters.

At this point, the leaders appear to be  those with the most name recognition, thanks in part to their participation in the 2008 presidential elections in some way.

The Gallup survey has Mike Huckabee getting 18 percent of the support of Republicans compared with 16 percent for Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin and 9 percent for Newt Gingrich. The four have continued to lead the pack in various positions both nationally and in most states polling companies have surveyed to this point.

The second set of candidates are those who either have less support among Republicans (Ron Paul, at 5 percent) or are lesser known Republicans who could become household names if they decide to run and mount a strong campaign among a Republican voter base apparently looking for someone new.

Michele Bachmann has the support of 4 percent, Tim Pawlenty gets the backing of 3 percent, as does Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels, Rick Santorum has two percent and John Huntsman and Gary Johnson each have one percent. Three other people, who have said they are not running for president, also receive the support of one percent of Republicans:  Mike Pence, Chris Christie, and John Thune.

Another 3 percent of Republicans mentioned another candidate not listed in the Gallup survey while 14 percent said they have no opinion at this time.

Gallup had previously asked Republicans for their 2012 nomination preferences in November and September and the new results don’t show much change. Huckabee rose from 12-18 percent in the surveys while Romney stayed about the same, Palin stayed exactly the same, and Gingrich went back to his September level. Support for Ron Paul dropped each time and none of the lesser-known candidates built any more support now than they had in September.

“As is usually the case in early nomination polls, the top candidates tend to be the best known. Huckabee, Romney, and Ron Paul all sought the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, Palin was the party’s vice presidential nominee that year, and Gingrich was the speaker of the House from 1995-1999,” Gallup said of its results.

Gallup also looked at the difference in results between self-identified Republican voters and GOP-leaning independents — important because Republican voters will play a bigger role in determining the nominee. It found Huckabee leading Republicans with 21 percent to 17 percent for Palin and Romney and 11 percent for Gingrich.

Conservatives and churchgoers were in Huckabee’s camp while liberals and moderates liked Romney and Palin more. Women preferred Huckabee and Palin more while men preferred Huckabee and Romney more. Huckabee plays better with younger voters while Romney does better with older voters. Huckabee does well in the South while Romney leads in the East and West.

The results are based on interviews conducted Feb. 18-20, with 1,326 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.