CNN Poll: Two-thirds of Republicans say minds are not made up
October 17th, 2011
12:14 PM ET
3 years ago

CNN Poll: Two-thirds of Republicans say minds are not made up

Las Vegas, Nevada (CNN) - One day before a CNN Western Republican presidential debate, a new national survey indicates that Mitt Romney and Herman Cain are essentially tied for the lead in the race for the GOP nomination, with Rick Perry dropping to a distant third.

But according to the CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday, only one third of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say their minds are made up.

See full results (PDF)


Programming note: GOP presidential candidates next face off at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, October 18, in the CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada. Submit your questions for the debate here.

Twenty-six percent say they are likely to support Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who's making his second bid for the White House, with Cain, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host, at 25%. Romney's one point margin is well within the poll's sampling error. Cain has seen his support nearly triple, from 9% in September to 25%, while Romney's edged up four points.

According to the poll, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's at 13%. Perry quickly surged to the top of the national polls after he launched his campaign on August 13. But thanks to an uneven debate performance in late September, a distant showing at a much watched straw poll in Florida two days later, and constant attacks on his stance on illegal immigration and Social Security by the other candidates, Perry has faded in the polls. His strength has been cut in half since September in CNN polling.

"Republicans who support the tea party movement love Herman Cain - he gets support from 39% of them, more than double the number who support Mitt Romney," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Republicans who say they are nuetral toward the tea party back Romney by roughly the same margin – 35% of them favor Romney compared to just 14% for Cain."

The survey indicates that 9% back Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who's making his third bid for the presidency, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 8%, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota at 6%, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at 2%, and former Utah Gov. and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at 1%.

"There has been little change for the candidates in single digits since September - just two- to three-point swings for Paul and Gingrich and little or no change for Bachmann, Santorum and Huntsman," adds Holland.

According to the poll, only one third of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say they will definitely support the candidate they are currently backing, with two thirds saying they may change their minds.

"With only 33% of all Republicans saying that their minds are made up, it's far too early to say the race is over, or even that is has boiled down to a mano-a-mano fight between Romney and Cain," says Holland.

The survey indicates that most Republicans say they are satisfied with the field of GOP candidates still in the race, although only one in five describe themselves as very satisfied. Republicans who back the tea party are more satisfied with the field of candidates than Republicans who are neutral toward the tea party.

Is the GOP nomination worth fighting for?

"Most definitely. There is a big 'enthusiasm gap' between Republicans and Democrats that, if it persists, may boost the eventually GOP nominee's chances in 2012," says Holland.

Two thirds of all registered Republicans say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting next year, compared to less than half of all Democrats. In the 2008 election cycle, the Democrats were more enthusiastic that then GOPers, a major advantage that helped elect then Sen. Barack Obama.

Some of the current enthusiasm gap is likely due to the fact that the Republicans are in the middle of a classic battle for their party's nomination while Democrats, for now, have nothing to pay attention to. But if that gap persists once the primary season is over, Obama will have a more difficult road back to the White House. For the record, Democrats seem happy with Obama - eight in ten want to see the party re-nominate the President, his highest number on that measure since June.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from October 14-16, with 1,007 adults, including 416 Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points with a sampling error of five percentage points for questions asked only of Republicans.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story.

Also see:

CNN Poll of Polls: Romney and Cain battle for top spot

New national poll shows Cain at top

Poll: GOP shakeup in South Carolina


Filed under: 2012 • CNN/ORC International poll • Republicans
soundoff (225 Responses)
  1. Drew Williams

    Guess we'll see if the Republican Party belongs to the GOP establishment and moderates, or the Tea Party and right-wingers. Should be interesting watching candidates twist and turn, trying to prove they are both.

    October 17, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  2. msadr

    Neither of those guys stands a chance of beating Obama. Ron Paul might.

    October 17, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  3. Kat

    This kind of reminds me of that South Park episode, "Douche and Turd." Similar voting options here.

    October 17, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. nofluer

    Romney, Cain, and Perry – three RINO losers. I wouldn't vote for these clowns if George Washington rose from the dead and endorsed one of them. ANY of them would be a continuation of the crap we've seen for 20 years. It's time for a change – a REAL change. It's time to return to Constitutional Government. (That would be the US Constitution).

    And since there is absolutely NO difference between the Dems and the Reps, if I can't vote for Ron Paul, I'm staying home. Why waste the time and the gas.

    October 17, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  5. J

    Ron Paul or the Libertarian.
    There are no other choices.

    October 17, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. teacher

    I am a Republican and I have made up my mind. I will NOT vote for a republican. If someone is "earning" my tax money, I sure want them to do something for it. Republicans are just signing ridiculous pledges that would not hold up in court just to get elected and then voting no to everything. When asked questions on news shows, including Fox, they don't answer the questions. I watched Cantor yesterday. He sounded so knowledgable except he didn't answer any of the questions asked him. He just rattled on with his prepared agenda. And this was on Fox News. He said unemployment happened the day after Obama took office. Wasn't Bush president until noon or so the day before. Was the unemployment rate at 0% then?

    October 17, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  7. Polls are crap

    Before we take any stock in these polls – go look at it in detail. No one under 50, all from the South and none from rural areas. WOW- that sounds like a BROAD spectrum to judge by. What a farce all these polls are. Nothing against Cain – but odds are he is going to do well in this poll since I am pretty sure he is from Atlanta Georgia – kind of a home town poll.

    October 17, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  8. dudley0415

    It's a very long time until November, 2012. Democrats are very good at digging up dust and making it look like dirt. Romney has been vetted before. Cain and Perry and unsubs and susceptible to sensationalism and innuendo. Expect much more (D) money to be spent on Romney. Their basic tactic: "He/she's stupid," with blind followers trying to parrot it enough to make people believe it. This tactic appeals to everyone's perspective that they are personally the smartest person on the planet, so of course someone they disagree with is of duller intellect.

    Romney was a (R) governor of the most liberal state in the union. (D) is very much afraid of him. Expect even more Mormonism talk since there is no personal dirt on Romney, and a not-altogether successful effort to try to make Romney's health care plan look bad while at the same time touting Obama's, though they are essentially the same.

    October 17, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  9. Ben

    Stop with the junk stories, the fake polls, and the lies. RON PAUL IS THE GOP FRONT-RUNNER OF THE PEOPLE!!!!

    October 17, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  10. Patients vote

    Good to see Perry falling in the polls. Any politician who tries to take away patients' right to refuse treatment (the forced vaccination debacle) deserves to booted out of the race in my book.

    October 17, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  11. Linda

    Is there any hope for bi-partisan cooperation in the near future? If the Democrats outnumber the Republicans in Congress and we elect President Obama again will the Republicans still be able to stop any legislation? If the Republicans outnumber the Democrats in Congress and we elect President Obama again won't we have the same situation we have now? If the Democrats outnumber the Republicans and we elect a Republican President won't we have the same stalemate we have now? If the Republicans outnumber the Democrats in Congress and we elect a Republican President won't we have the same situation we have now with nothing happening? What's the solution? I'm one of those Americans who hasn't made any decision about which party to vote for in 2012. Glad I've got some time.

    October 17, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. clarke

    Far too much time and money is spent on elections. These politicians need to be doing their jobs as well as the President. These elections need to have a time limit and money limit. No one needs almost two years for this. People know who they would vote for if elections were today.

    October 17, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  13. John

    To be fair, 26% of repulicans still think Bush did a good job, there is no global warming, and the president is an African borm Muslim. That makes the error rate in polls like this about 50/50!

    October 17, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  14. CRB

    People did not like Clinton...or Bush. People do not like Obama.

    Romney will not be liked because he, just as his predecessors before him, will not be able to please everyone. Cain is in the same boat – as soon as he gets in office and starts making unpopular decisions (and some of them will be clueless decisions because he does not have the political experience), people won't like him either.

    The bottom line...no one is qualified for the job – so if you are voting in 2012, please don't get upset when the next president fails to satisfy you, because you knew ahead of time that the person you voted for was not qualified in the first place.

    October 17, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. Linda

    When is the last time a person of integrity was elected to any office in this country?

    October 17, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. kyle

    This makes me so mad, the polls that are generated are complete garbage. The only ones that matter or have any substance , if any, are the ones where actual people have participated and voted in. And the winner in just about every single one has been Ron Paul. Give this guy some credit for christs sake!

    October 17, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  17. Jillequi Mystere

    If all the candidates were black the liberals would still say conservatives are racist.

    October 17, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  18. Cooke

    RON PAUL 2012! time to embrace a candidate who is consistent, honest, conservative, and ready to lead!

    October 17, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  19. Not Represented

    The only candidate that I can support is not even listed.
    Gary Johnson.

    I guess pro-life , anti-war, anti- big government, pro equal rights, end the drug war candidate with a favorable rating in the state he governed for two terms is'nt really someone anybody would vote for or want to hear from.

    CNN censors.

    October 17, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  20. r0npaul2012

    Will CNN talk about the 1T in specific budget cuts plan being proposed today? It is said that this plan would balance the US deficit in 3 years! Does anyone else think it's worth mentioning?

    October 17, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  21. Anticipatioin

    Is anyone amazed that 2/3's are undecided. When was the last time 2/3's of the Congress or Senate agreed on anything?

    October 17, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  22. Annie Rand

    Cain admitted that his 9 etc. tax plan will mean higher taxes for lower middle class and poor citizens. No problem. Under the new voting laws that have passed in states with Republican legislatures fewer of those losers will be voting anyway.

    October 17, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  23. Rick McDaniel

    That is because none are ideal candidates, especially when the Tea Party has so much influence for extremism.

    That means much more analysis and effort to decide who you really think is trustworthy, and who you don't feel comfortable about. In the end, the most trustworthy, and least extreme, will likely emerge the winner.

    The more I look at how things are going, the more I am looking seriously at Gingrich, although Perry is still viable for me. I have eliminated Romney, Cain, Bachmann, Santorum, and Paul. Johnson likely has no chance, but I would like to see more from him.......yet the party, and / or the media want to leave him out of the debates.

    I think it is clear, several will not have the funding to get through the primary, much less the general election. That is going to impact the final choice.

    October 17, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  24. Anon

    Ron Paul is the only candidate who can beat Obama.

    October 17, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  25. Lean6

    I bet Cain is so stupid that he'd accept an invitation to go hunting with Dick Cheney on Rick Perry's N-Head Ranch. "You've gotta wear this deer costume Herman because it makes it easier to get close to the target without spooking them...err...I mean frightening them."

    October 17, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
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