WASHINGTON (CNN) - As the the first unofficial ballots are cast in the next race for the White House, a new national survey of Republicans indicates that the GOP doesn't have a clear presidential frontrunner - but does have a clear gender gap.
Twenty-nine percent of Republicans questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they are most likely to support Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. Right behind the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, and well within the poll's 4.5 percent sampling error, is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Twenty-six percent of those questioned say they are most likely backing the former, and possibly future, Republican presidential candidate.
Twenty-one percent of Republicans polled say they most likely would support former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another GOP hopeful from the last campaign who may put his hat into the ring again.
Nine percent say they would probably back Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who is considered a rising star in the GOP. On Tuesday, Jindal gave the Republican response to President Barack Obama's prime time address to a joint session of Congress. This poll was conducted before that speech, which drew some critical reviews.
"Since the poll was taken before Jindal's widely-panned speech, his low support is not a reflection on his performance on Tuesday night and is most likely due to the fact that he is not as well known as Palin, Huckabee or Romney, all of whom ran national campaigns in 2008,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Ten percent of those questioned say they would most likely support some other candidate.
The poll's release comes as conservatives from across the country are gathered in the nation's capital to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference. Those attending the meetings are voting in a straw poll of their favorite candidate for the next Republican presidential nomination. The results will be released Saturday.
While the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll doesn't indicate a clear frontrunner, it does suggest there's a gender gap among rank-and-file Republicans.
"Among GOP men, the same pattern emerges - no clear advantage for Palin, Huckabee or Romney,” says Holland. “But among Republican women, it's a different story. Palin has a 10-point edge among Republican women, winning 32 percent support among them to 22 percent for Huckabee and 20 percent for Romney. With the sampling error, that's not enough to say for sure that Palin is in the lead, but it does indicate that if the primaries were held tomorrow, Palin would have a good chance of being the favorite among GOP women."
But the 2012 campaign is still a long, long, long way away.
"So many things will happen between now and 2012 that this poll has no real predictive value," says Holland.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey was conducted February 18-19, with 429 Republicans questioned by telephone.