CNN Poll: Two-thirds of Republicans say minds are not made up
October 17th, 2011
12:14 PM ET
2 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. Donna

    Doesn't matter who the Republicans select as the nominee. Anyone they put up is a million times better than the do-nothing currently in there, who does nothing but stir the pot- while having zero ideas of his own.

    October 17, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  2. Robert

    Romney will make a great president – he'll get needed results. He's who we need to lead through these most difficult times. Too bad alot of people commenting here can't see that. btw – I voted for Obama, and I'm not Mormon.

    October 17, 2011 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  3. Whitney

    Ron Paul 2012! Educate yourselves! Paul is our only hope for to get our country back!

    October 17, 2011 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  4. chris

    The problem with politicans is they know the majority of americans wont do their research on them, so throw a few flashy slogans in your campaign and your good to go. To run for president or any thing else is a cake walk. People need to start doing their research on these people and stop being so ignorant, your brains are for more than just remembering to watch jersey shore, or some plastic looking basketball wifves.ridiculous.

    October 17, 2011 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. egb

    Why are candidates like Santorum still allowed to participate in the debates? After several airings and several polls, he remains at a dismal 1-2%, so why not have the debates focus only on serious candidates?

    October 17, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  6. Sara Bean

    I'm not surprised 2/3 of people's minds aren't made up...the GOPs need to get behind one or two strong candidates....SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

    Delaying support and endorsements for one candidate and continuing to debate between 7 of them will only maintain the status quo of ambivalence

    October 17, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  7. JohnQWhoCares

    Who cares about the millionaires. I am sure they will be making decisions on behalf of the contributions from Lobbyist and the Wealthy. Then of course if they stand on a n t i ab or t i o n they will do nothing should they get elected like George JR did or did not do while in office. They will of course play the harpe strings to what the surveys tell them to lie or pretend to care until elected.

    October 17, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  8. Chipster

    The GOP/TEA Party is a bizarre contradiction in policy and personality. The TEA Party represents people who appear to want to rein in government spending. To achieve this the GOP plans to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and the Veterans Administration. Many of the member of the TEA Party appear to be living on Social Security and using Medicare for their health services. The TEA Party demands an end to government agencies and then they complain that they need more help from FEMA in response to recent natural disasters. I suppose they won't be too happy when the FDA and CDC are gone and they have unsafe food, medicines, and no one preventing epidemics. The GOP will be quite happy to shut down those government agencies and take their "let the buyer beware" position but they'll never stop giving corporate handouts to energy companies, agribusinesses subsidies, and pharmaceutical companies. They'll just do what they've always done – push the cost to state and local governments and onto the backs of the middle class.

    It's as if the GOP'ers say and do one thing and the TEA Partiers see and hear something entirely different. Quite bizarre how TEA Partiers work so hard against their own self-interest.

    October 17, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    Not suprising: they can't even make their minds up about things like whether government doesn't create jobs or the government/POTUS should be blamed for not creating jobs....or whether they support and believe in the Constitution or actually kinda just want to completely rewrite it to delete major Constitutional Amendments and overturn long-standing principles and precedent regarding things like the separation of church and state.

    One thing is for sure: when you have a group like this constantly taking hypocritical, diametrically opposed, self-contradictory positions all the time, you can reduce their policy down to something much simpler than the bag of self-contradictions they are presenting...to say it simply, their policy/worldview simply amounts to "I'm for whatever is most convenient and expedient and will serve my narrow self interests most at any given moment."

    October 17, 2011 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    Not suprising: they can't even make their minds up about things like whether government doesn't create jobs or the government/POTUS should be blamed for not creating jobs....or whether they support and believe in the Constitution or actually kinda just want to completely rewrite it to delete major Constitutional Amendments and overturn long-standing principles and precedent regarding things like the separation of church and state.

    October 17, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  11. FutureRight

    Americans want Cain, and they want Ron Paul, those are the men who are going to turn this country around.

    October 17, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  12. Sam A.

    I don't understand why public office holders that supposed to serve the general interest of the majority and the Country could sign a pledge not to increase taxes regardless the desperate condition of the country and yet debating to be a presidential nominee of the GOP. They cut taxes for the 1%, continued to pay Senators and Congress men/women for doing nothing and yet called unemployment people lazy for collecting nickels and dimes while they are collecting BIG bucks for doing NOTHING? America, is that Fair???

    October 17, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  13. aspires

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

    What about Elliott Spitzer? What about Arnold Schwartenegger?

    October 17, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. Max

    Its time we all do as our democrat leadership has done for the last 4 years and spend spend spend. Everyone run out and get additional credit cards and just max them out. Afterall, spending brings about jobs. You don't believe me, then ask our fearless Social leader, Obama. Debt you ask? Don't worry about it. That will be the problem of your children and their children. You don't need to worry about something so trivial as to who is going to pay for it. We'll make those mean rich people pay. You work for a corporation and they make a profit so shame on you. Corporations should not be allowed to make profits.

    October 17, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Whitney wrote:
    Ron Paul 2012! Educate yourselves! Paul is our only hope for to get our country back!
    -------------
    I missed the first part Ron Paul can "get our country back" from what?

    October 17, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  16. Sam A.

    Here is the rest of my previous post. I almost forgot, we are also at war with 2 countries and we cut taxes and these GOP are wondering why we have such a huge debt, are you kidding me? The big 3, Soc Sec, Medicare and Medicaid are paid into by individual workers, please check your pay checks. Don't take my word for it, just check your pay stubs and make up your minds, you are not zombies, you can think, reason and rationalize like a normal person.

    October 17, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  17. adam

    Go Romney. Cain is too radical. Also, not very smart. He needs some experience...maybe as VP. Go Romney Cain 2012!!! Obama is bad for America...trust me. He's lied to the middle class over and over again. It's time for a real change...

    October 17, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  18. Alex

    the best ticket to get this country back on track would be a Paul/Cain ticket. anyone else would just keep adding fuel to our burning economy.
    with romney expect the same kind of spending and policies as BUSH! i promise you. romney is nothing but a puppet, the same as bush was.
    if it comes down to romney vs obama the one who will definitely lose will be the american people. each one of them is like poison to our government.
    do your research people! it is your responsibility as a voter!

    October 17, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  19. krehator

    I want to see their birth certificates. I'm suspicious.

    October 17, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  20. Maltheus

    So the two front runners were both TARP supporters and Cain even worked for the Federal Reserve, was saying the economy was just fine as late as September 2008, stole his economic plan from Domino's 5-5-5 commercial, and wants to introduce a new national tax on top of (not replacing) our existing one? Talk about rolling over. Is the Tea Party going to provide the lube too? Couldn't even last one election cycle huh?

    October 17, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  21. Aric

    I love how everyone in the media expects people to make up their minds before the primary season even begins. Let people see some real debates weighing on real election results, and then see who is backing who.

    October 17, 2011 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  22. Charles

    If Ron Paul doesn't take the nomination this year, I will have completely lost faith in America. We've allowed the ruling elite to decide the candidate via the major media.

    Ron Paul has won more polls than any other candidate, but they're still trying desperately to black out his name. It literally makes me nauseous.

    October 17, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    You mean the people who can't make up their minds about whether the gov't doesn't create jobs or should be blamed 100% for the lack of job creation OR whether the Constitution is sacred and should be upheld or needs a complete rewrite to get rid of the separation of church and state, the 10th Amendment, the 17th Amendment and various other inconvenient sections and the precedent they spawned...they can't make up their minds on a candidate? Shocking.

    October 17, 2011 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  24. Lisa

    Ron Paul's detailed "Plan to Restore America." Cut $1 trillion in spending during his first year: http://c3244172.r72.cf0.rackcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/RestoreAmericaPlan.pdf

    October 17, 2011 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  25. truthspeaks

    Cain wont Stay at the Top forever look what happend to Perry

    October 17, 2011 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
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