Gingrich at top of pack for first time in CNN polling
November 21st, 2011
04:01 PM ET
3 years ago

Gingrich at top of pack for first time in CNN polling

Washington (CNN) - Newt Gingrich tops the list in the race for the GOP nomination, according to a new national survey.

And a CNN/ORC International Poll released on the eve of a CNN presidential debate focusing heavily on national security and foreign affairs also indicates Republicans consider the former House Speaker the most qualified GOP candidate to be Commander-in-Chief.

See full results (PDF)

Programming note: GOP presidential candidates face off at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, November 22, in the CNN Republican National Security Debate in Washington, D.C.

According to the survey, 24% of Republicans and independent voters who lean towards the GOP say they are most likely to support Gingrich for their party's nomination, with 20% saying they back Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is making his second bid for the presidency.

Gingrich's four point margin over Romney is within the survey's sampling error. A CNN poll released one week ago had Romney at 24% and Gingrich at 22%. Gingrich was at just 8% in a CNN poll in October.

Gingrich's campaign was left for dead by many in May and June, following a number of controversies that spurred some of his top advisers and staffers quit, and that left the campaign coffers in the red.

But the former House Speaker has performed well in 10 major GOP presidential debates held this year, acting as the elder statesman while many of his rivals for the nomination attacked each other.

"I entered this race with a huge amount of background story, some public, some private, which led people initially to think, 'Well, I'm not sure I want him.' And part of what the debates have done is they've been able to see me without editing, and, therefore, they've been able to say, 'Gee, that's not the guy I thought he was,' " Gingrich recently told CNN's Piers Morgan.

"It seems likely that Gingrich's performance in past debates has helped him - 43% say he is the Republican candidate who best understands complex issues, more than double the number who say that about Romney," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Gingrich gets another chance to shine Tuesday, when he along with seven of his GOP rivals face off in a CNN presidential debate on national security, foreign policy and the economy. CNN is teaming up with the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, two long time Republican-leaning think thanks, to put on the debate, which is being held just a few blocks from the White House.

According to the survey, on national security issues, 36% of Republicans say Gingrich is most qualified to be commander-in-chief - 16 points higher than Romney.

Former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain garners support from 17% of the Republicans surveyed. Cain was at 25% support in CNN polling last month, but slipped after a controversy over sexual harassment allegations from his time as head of the National Restaurant Association during the late 1990s.

Rick Perry is at 11% in the new poll. The Texas governor soared to frontrunner status soon after he entered the race in mid-August, but thanks to stumbles in the debates this autumn, Perry's numbers dropped and are now holding steady in the low double digits. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who is making his third run for the White House, is at 9%, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is at 5%, with former Sen. Rick Santorum at 3% and former Utah Gov. and former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at 3%.

While Gingrich has some major strengths, the poll indicates he also has some weaknesses. Only 9% of Republicans say he is the most likable candidate. Republican voters also don't think he's the best choice for getting the economy moving again, and they see Romney, not Gingrich, as the Republican with the best chance of beating President Barack Obama next November.

Gingrich is the latest GOP candidate to surge in national and state surveys, following Bachmann, Perry and Cain. Bachmann and Perry slid after their initial surges, and Cain may be headed in the same direction.

"But don't think that Gingrich has risen in the polls simply because other alternatives to Romney have fizzled," adds Holland. "The number of Republicans who would be pleased or enthusiastic if he won the party's nomination has grown from 51% in May to 70% now - not the kind of numbers you would expect if voters were 'settling' for Gingrich."

Although he is no longer at the top of the list, Romney is viewed as the most likable candidate, and the one most likely to get the economy moving again. And significantly, by a two-to-one margin, Republicans say Romney is the candidate with the best chance to beat Obama.

Although many Republicans are clearly looking for an alternative to Romney, they don't oppose him. Only 28% say they would be displeased or upset if Romney won the GOP nod.

The poll also indicates that the race is far from over: Only 27% of Republicans say they have definitely made up their minds.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from November 18-20, with 1,019 adult Americans, including 402 Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP, questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error for Republican primary questions is plus or minus five percentage points.


Filed under: 2012 • CNN/ORC International poll • Newt Gingrich • Republicans
soundoff (313 Responses)
  1. jk from MN

    Just HAVE stay with the Washington insider who was a paid lobbyist – just FABULOUS! No one should have to wonder what's wrong with this country.

    November 21, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  2. allens

    WHAT ARE WE THINKING! this is a immoral and corrupt person. he cheated on his wives and quit his speaker post in disgrace. he took money from mac/mae whio he critisized in the harshest of terms. he is our great hope?

    November 21, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  3. Ugh

    The respondents were all age 50+ white southerners in that poll unless I read the PDF results wrong. How is that a true national poll?

    November 21, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. Garnered

    Does this mean he qualified because he is likely to start the most wars?

    November 21, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. Bobby

    How can any social conservative or woman voter, vote for him.. How many wives does it take to become President.. If he cheats on his family, well what the heck will he do to his country..

    November 21, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  6. jason

    Newt is the right man for the job at the right time. He will beat Obama.
    Obama has to run on his record and that will ensure that he is a one term President.
    Obama is the worst President we have ever had. Just look ate his record and lack of leadership.
    I pulled for Obama but he let us all down. It really wasn't his fault, he just wasn't qualified.

    November 21, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  7. TomFoolery

    Ron Paul is head and shoulders above the rest of this field, with the exception of Gary Johnson, who is completely shut out by the media. One thing that should be looked into is the inordinate power that the media has to sway elections. With all the bleating about "corporations" having too much power, there is cricket chirping silence about the fact that media companies, which are themselves corporations, have always been able to directly campaign for candidates. They have demonstrated how much power they have by shutting out Johnson's campaign.

    November 21, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  8. al sullivan

    This poll better than any shows just how far to the right the GOP has gone, when conservatives pick a man like this as the best choice to lead the nation. This is similar to what happened in 1980 when a very weak Democrat allowed Ronald Reagan to become president - gutting almost all gains the poor and working class had made since World War II. I suspect we shall see even more deterioration of middle and working class if the GOP succeeds again.

    November 21, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  9. BP

    That's the best you can do? what a joke, America deserves better. I can't imagine there are no more and better horses in the stable. Shame.

    November 21, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. gary

    Let me see.... Harvard educated monogamous statesman vs. loudmouth carousing lobbyist who can't balance his own check book. I really like our chances.......

    November 21, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  11. Crocker

    Newt just might do it.

    November 21, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  12. Observer

    At least if Gingrich runs we won't ever have to listen to Republicans talk about ethics, morality, family values, and the Moral Majority.

    November 21, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  13. shrimper

    You cannot be serious? Republicans really don't want to win the 2012 election if Newt is all they have to offer!

    November 21, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  14. regertz

    "Most qualified" what a sad, sad reflection on what was once a proud political party. Reminds one of Macduff's "..fit to govern?!" No, not fit to live..."

    November 21, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  15. Jlenta

    how could one believe this poll? seriously how could rick perry be at 11%, he hasn't said anything of meaning, he basically goofs about himself.... we are truly f'd if this poll is in any realm accurate...

    I just can't wait to see what the media says when Ron Paul wins IOWA!

    November 21, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  16. Ray

    Newt is a war monger,Perry hasn't got a clue,Mitt too far out there,Bachman lost in space,Cain to mixed up in numbers to know what is wrong.any one of these people is definately wrong for this country.

    November 21, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  17. TommiGI

    Baaaaaaloney. Based on what?

    November 21, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  18. susan/ california

    Hard to beleive that the Repubiican voter would vote for such a hypocrite and cheater. Talk about American Value and role model man are we in trouble.

    November 21, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  19. Julie

    "And a CNN/ORC International Poll released on the eve of a CNN presidential debate focusing heavily on national security and foreign affairs also indicates Republicans consider the former House Speaker the most qualified GOP candidate to be Commander-in-Chief." An international poll?? Timing is suspect!! Another example of CNN trying to sway the voters. You should be ashamed CNN!!!! No one likes Newt, catch a clue!!! He is one of the biggest crooks in the white house. And one of the richest!!

    November 21, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  20. Lukas

    27 Straw Polls since June 2011, over 33,000 votes. Ron Paul has won 13. Cain has won 9. Romney, 2. Newt, ONLY 1!!!!

    November 21, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  21. Pete

    Newt like Dick Cheney is a very intelligent man – he has made plenty of mistakes but not being a moron has to count for something. Most Republicans who run are morons because most rich men aren't interested in being president as its very clearly a drag..

    November 21, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  22. Draeggo

    Wow. People sure have a short memory about this guy. Why would anyone vote for someone that has already imploded once on the national stage with his self importance? Do we really need someone that eventually left office because of the stink he made over being forced to sit in the back of Air Force 1? The man is a menace and I agree with others... the Tea Party is splitting the republican vote so they are history in this election. What we need is an American Party for Americans that actually care about this country instead of what it can do for us or a particular political party.

    November 21, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  23. Alex

    I wouldn't make Newt the Commander in Chief of the good ship lollipop, let alone the USA. He's as two faced as they come.

    November 21, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  24. CharChar

    "Best Qualified" as next to what? A blind-folded chimp?

    November 21, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  25. Barry

    Interesting...

    So the guy that says to OWS you lazy ##$@$% get a job while completely ignoring the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics pegged the situation as having on average of only 1 job available per 19 people.

    This is a simple search that takes about 20 seconds.

    So if this is the quality of best candidate for the Republican party (one who cant do basic research), I shutter to think what the quality is of the remaining Republican candidates.

    That's just brutal.

    November 21, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
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