CNN Poll: Still no front-runner in the battle for the GOP nomination
The Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center on September 4, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
May 5th, 2011
12:15 PM ET
3 years ago

CNN Poll: Still no front-runner in the battle for the GOP nomination

Greenville, South Carolina (CNN) - A new national poll indicates the race for the Republican presidential nomination remains wide-open, with none of the probable or potential GOP White House contenders above 20 percent, according to a new national poll.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey's Thursday release comes hours before the first Republican presidential debate of the 2012 election cycle. The debate is being held in South Carolina, which holds the first southern primary on the road to the White House.

The poll also indicates President Barack Obama is ahead of all probable and possible GOP candidates tested in hypothetical general election matchups, but the person who comes closest to Obama may surprise you.

According to the survey, conducted just before the news of the death of Osama bin Laden, 16 percent of Republicans and independents who lean Republican say they would be likely to support Mike Huckabee for the Republican presidential nomination. The former Arkansas governor ran for the White House in 2008, and while to date he hasn't taken many steps towards launching another campaign, he has definitely not ruled out another bid for his party's nomination.

Fourteen percent say they'd back Donald Trump. The billionaire businessman, real estate mogul and reality TV star says he will announce by June if he's going to run for the White House.

One point back is Mitt Romney, at 13 percent. The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 GOP White House candidate has been adding to his campaign team in recent months and last month launched a presidential exploratory committee.

The poll indicates that 11 percent support Sarah Palin. The former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee has not made any serious moves towards launching a campaign, but says she isn't closing any doors.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who has run for the White House twice before, both stand at ten percent in the poll. Both men have taken steps towards formally launching campaigns. Everyone else questioned in the survey registered at five percent or less.

"No GOP candidate has a statistically significant lead, so it's way too soon to start talking about frontrunners," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Is it all about name recognition at this still relatively early point in the GOP horserace?

"Yes, but name recognition alone is not enough. Otherwise one of the best known candidates, Palin, would not be stuck in fourth place. Trump and Palin, with the highest name ID, also have the highest unfavorable ratings," adds Holland.

Fifty-nine percent of all Americans dislike the former Alaska Governor and 64 percent have a negative view of Trump, according to the poll. The survey indicates Gingrich also has relatively high unfavorables, but the favorable ratings for Romney and Huckabee outweigh their unfavorables, although both are unknown to more than a quarter of the general public.

Seventy-eight percent of Democrats or independents who lean Democrat say they back Obama as the party's presidential nominee next year, with just over one in five saying they'd prefer another Democrat. That number has remained relatively consistent over the past year.

What about the showdown in November 2012?

According to the poll, taken before the announcement of Osama bin Laden's death, President Barack Obama has an edge over all the top GOP candidates in hypothetical match-ups.

Who does best against Obama? Paul. The congressman from Texas, who also ran as a libertarian candidate for president in 1988 and who is well liked by many in the tea party movement, trails the president by only seven points (52 to 45 percent) in a hypothetical general election showdown. Huckabee trails by eight points, with Romney down 11 points to Obama.

The poll indicates the president leading Gingrich by 17 points, Palin by 19, and Trump by 22 points.

"It should be obvious to any political observer that hypothetical general election match-ups at this stage of the game have relatively little predictive value," says Holland.

"GOP primary match-ups are another matter - since the modern era of presidential primaries began in 1972, there have been six times when the GOP nomination was up for grabs. In five of those six election cycles, the eventual GOP winner was leading the polls taken in April of the previous year. That may mean little in 2011 since no Republican hopeful has a commanding lead, but it also means that the history books won't let us completely dismiss these polls," adds Holland.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted April 29-May 1, with 1,034 adult Americans questioned by telephone. All interviews were completed before the president announced that bin Laden, the founder and leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network and the man responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.


Filed under: 2012 • CNN poll • Polls • Republicans
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. GI Joe

    How can such a gaggle of losers ever be in front?

    May 5, 2011 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  2. The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE - The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends

    This is "news" at this point??? This is why there are primaries! The Republicans will be vetting a whole new generation of candidates. ALL of them better than the bumbling, spend thrift, non-leader we have in the Whitehouse now.

    May 5, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. concerned liberal

    Time to vote for an alternative to the Democratic/Republican strangle hold on our country – support your favorite 2nd party alternative to the single party system.

    May 5, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  4. PalmReader

    "That may mean little in 2011 since no Republican hopeful has a commanding lead, but it also means that the history books won't let us completely dismiss these polls," adds Holland."

    What's to dismiss, CNN? Unless I haven't been paying attention and a Republican hopeful has actually ANNOUNCED their candidacy beyond *exploratory* dreams, this is all gobbledygook. In my 57 years, I've never seen such wishy-washy GOPer candidates who are either too afraid of announcing for fear of having to step up and begin to answer the hard questions from ALL Americans - not just their supporters - or actually have no intention of ever announcing they will be running for President, but are instead content to sit back and bask in their own self fulfilling glory. Skipping debates comes to mind.

    May 5, 2011 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  5. vic , nashville ,tn

    Unfortunate situation

    There are good candidates they can’t make their mind why

    Republican’s control states legislators and governors hurting the party

    Fox and right wing radio talk shows hurting the party

    Tea party hurting the party

    May 5, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    I disagree with the assertion that the GOTP has not front runner. That statement doesn't tell the whole story. The GOTP has had a new front runner almost every week. That have not had anyone to lead for more than a couple of weeks at a time.

    I thought Trump was the far and away front runner. He was a perfect Republican. He is a wealthy businessman. What has happened to that legendary conservative loyalty?

    May 5, 2011 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. Bill

    I'm still confident that President Obama wil prevail over the GOP candidates, whom I think will be Romney/Pawlenty or Romney/Huntsman.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    May 5, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. rs

    There won't be a frontrunner. The Republican Tea Party has formed a circular firing squad. Whoever steps forward will get shot at from all sides. Mostly for not being "conservative" enough. Romney would be their best hope. However, you can bet the wingnuts will assail him for the universal healthcare system in Mass., and probably for being a Mormon. Likewise everyone else will be criticized for a wide variety of crimes (RINO!). The funny thing is old, real conservative standard bearers like Goldwater, Nixon, and maybe even Reagan are far too liberal for the rable now.

    May 5, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  9. Bill

    Does this surpise anyone? They are all a bunch of clowns. Kepp it up GOP!

    May 5, 2011 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  10. S. In California - Obama 2012

    It will come down to Huckabee and Romney and let the feast begin. They will devour each other – Huckabee will let the world know he's upset about not getting the attention he wanted/needed in 2008 and Romney will just kill himself with all his flop-flops. Once they get through devouring each other – Romney will prevail and then it's on to Obama where he'll lose just like the last time. At least we won't have to hear from him anymore.

    May 5, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  11. The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE - The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends

    Romney will prevail and then it's on to Obama where he'll lose just like the last time.
    ==================================================================
    Had Romney run in 2008, he would NOT have lost to Obama. When he runs in 2012, he WILL NOT lose to Obama. Seen the economy lately? Seen gas and food prices lately?? Too many people realize they were conned in 2008 and will not vote to put Obama the socialist back in the Whitehouse.

    May 5, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  12. The Situation

    So were is big mouth Trump now? I thought CNN had him as the front runner for the GOP? What a Tool!

    May 5, 2011 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    What does the Governer know about defense and national security besides what he has been told to say? The rare moment of original thinking resulted in the Mass. Health Care laws, which we all know he will get hammered on until he makes the fatal error for a conservative and say, "I was wrong."

    The Republican Party is destroying itself from the inside out. There is only one way to make sure they do not take the entire country with them in the process of their self-induced implosion. Move them as far away as possible to minimize the risk collateral damage.

    May 5, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  14. LDK in DC

    Who else was included in the poll, and how did they do? As a curious observer, hether insider favorites Pawlenty and Daniels will develop any traction with actual voters, or whether Bachmann will realize her reported potential as a Tea Party favorite.

    May 5, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. Four More For Sure

    When are the "big names" going to declare? Palin needs to quit pussyfooting and throw her name in officially. Same for Donny, Willard Mittens, Huckleberry, Pretty Ricky Santaria, and the noted Civics Prof. Bachmann

    May 5, 2011 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  16. LDK in DC

    (Corrected post) Who else was included in the poll, and how did they do? As a curious observer, I'm waiting to see whether insider favorites Pawlenty and Daniels will develop any traction with actual voters, or whether Bachmann will realize her reported potential as a Tea Party favorite.

    May 5, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  17. Samuel Adams

    Naturally, since the best performer in the head-to-head matchup wasn't a media darling establishment candidate, you simply dismiss your own poll results. Of course, it never occurs to you clueless shills that you might instead try to find out WHY Paul did so much better against Obama than the rest.

    May 5, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  18. TVPreacher

    I thought Trump the perfect GOP candidate. He might even get a vote or two in Mississippi swamp country.

    May 5, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  19. Bob

    If you Republicans want to see Obama get reelected then either nominate Palin, Gingrich, Pawlenty, or Paul to run against him. Lets see if you're that stupid!!!!!

    May 5, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  20. Lolo

    @ the day of reckoning, you must be getting some kind of suport from the government because you love to talk about welfare with every blog you post. Please get a life, better yet get a job. Ask Bush and your Republicans friends where are the jobs that they promised once you elected them back in. Idiot.

    May 5, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  21. DumbasRocks [R]s

    rs has it 'right on'.

    You need only compare rs's analysis to that of the dope who signs as "The Day of Financial Reckoning..." to understand the pathetically malignant mental state of today's [R]ightwing party. It is running solely on ideolocal-driven rhetoric, with not a sign that it has learned ANY lessons from the terrible FAILURES it perpetrated on America from 2000-2006. It is stunning that these idiots want to be back in charge, and it is even more stunning that millions of mentally challended Americans are supporting them in their continued quest for American failure.

    May 5, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  22. lanaduncan

    No republic will get president as long as people know the truth about how all they want to do is help the rich

    May 5, 2011 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  23. Me

    Did I miss it? Where is Pawlenty? Didn't he write that great book, The Courage to try and get noticed except by Minnesotans who will tell you how terrible I was as Governor?

    May 5, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  24. Rick McDaniel

    That's because there still is no good candidate!

    May 5, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. vet in texas

    @The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE – The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends
    ALL of them better than the bumbling, spend thrift, non-leader we have in the Whitehouse now.

    ----
    you make is sound as if he invaded LIbya with shock and awe based on false information gotten from Egypt torturing 1 person, or like he's spent his first 8 months of his presidency in Crawford "cutting brush", or spent a budget surplus on unfunded wars, tax cuts, medicare d......Geez I wish you would have given the last guy in charge as much scrutiny as your giving the new guy in charge.......where would be be as a country if you did?

    May 5, 2011 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
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