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. Lin McKay

    He might be in the front of the polls but he isn't electable. That is sad but factual. Newt has too much baggage and his excuses for his bad behavior doesn't set well with voters. Obama needs to go but I am not sure the GOP can pull it off. Perhaps if it is Obama/DEM vs. Romney/GOP vs. Paul/Independent – Paul could shake up the votes and Romney could come in the winner.

    November 21, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Newt personifies the boorish, fat A$$ed old boy face of the Grand Oil Party. Newt, Rush Limbaugh, Guliani-all sad old bloated white guys that truly give the rest of the world a good reason to hate us.

    November 21, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  3. Eddie

    This man is best suited for "Dungpile in Chief." What color is the sky in his world?

    November 21, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  4. Greg Morgan

    The fact that a nutcase like Newt Gingrich can be considered "most qualified" is a reflection of how pathetic the current crop of candidates is. His history of doctrinaire destructiveness in policymaking shows his disrgard for what is good for our nation, just as his serial infidelities have shown his moral unsuitability. He needs to slither back into the shadows. Surely there must be a better Republican candidate somewhere.

    November 21, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  5. Don Jones

    Newt personifies the boorish, fat A$$ed old boy face of the Grand Oil Party. Newt, Rush Limbaugh, Guliani-all sad old bloated white guys that truly give the rest of the world a good reason to hate us.

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  6. ELR

    No disrespect to any of the candidates, but my vote will be for Jon Huntsman, and if I change my mind, it will probably be to the other party.

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  7. MakeemStop

    Most of America don't care whom replaces Obama... Newt, Cain, Romney, any candidate with a pulse will be fine... . America realizes they made a huge mistake... Even his OWN PARTY is telling him not to run a second term. Just like Spain, Greece, Italy, etc... socialism had its chance with Obama here, but the evidence is clear. Socialism = Destruction

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  8. Raxtich

    Newt "Family Values" Gingrich? Really?

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  9. JustChill

    This guy was "kicked"" out of congress for ethical violations. Anyone remember this? Anyone? The guy is a sad excuse for a husband, father and house speaker...What make anyone believe he will be a good president?

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  10. Doug

    I'm starting to think cnn is an idiot.......I"m on the internet all day long. Ron Paul is far surpassing these "other guys". That is what should be reported on. I'm getting tired of the media black out of him. The only time he gets press time is to ridicule him. Grow up. Vote Ron Paul 2012. It is revolution time. Wake up America.

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  11. No Newt

    Romney couldnt shake that Romneycare IS Obamacare. Cain cant shake the women and his lack of knowledge in, ANYTHING. Perry. Well he's Bush 3.0. Michele? Um, no. Newt. He's Limbaugh with gray hair. Besides the fact that he's a multiple time adulterer who left his wife while she had cancer, his latest was he complained that Freddy gave money to Obama campaign, then we find out Newt worked for Freddie but of course cannot recollect the more than 1 million he got from them! He is the most qualified of the bunch, yes. But we dont need another 4 years of Bush.

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  12. krg

    Newt has a few issues that would keep him out of the white house. One, he is FAT and that is an issue. You want someone decent looking representing the US when dealing with other nations. Second, he is OLD. We need new younger. Last but not least, he lacks any kind of decency, especially when it comes to his own family. But hey, if this is the best the Republicans can do, then it is fine by me because it makes me want to rally more for Obama.

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  13. Mike

    Of course he's the most qualified Republican. He's a proven crook. He'll go well with Nixon, Reagan, and Bush.

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  14. Gene Buday

    Obama will win by default! The "Fault" meaning meaning the GOP!

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  15. t-bone

    Gingrich would be a disaster as president. He is a blowhard braggart posing as a wise thinker. As commander in chief he would encourage Isreal to nuke Iran's nuclear facilities, and then use Pakistan's outrage as justification for invading Pakistan to neutralize her nukes. He is a very dangerous man.

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  16. Terry Gloege

    I imagine Newtie probably led a midnight panty raid or two but I can't see him leading much of anything else.

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  17. Thomas

    I read up on this guy's positions and, to be honest, I actually like most of them. I mean, he wants to give pell grants so people can choose whatever school they would like their child to go to. This would create an explosion in educated people, especially in the inner-cities. Plus, he wants to pay kids to do science. That's an awesome motivator for kids to get into science, it would surely put us back on top of the world in terms of STEM education, and the kids who would take the courses anyway would have extra money to spend on furthering their education. It seems like a great idea to me!

    November 21, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  18. Robert (Atlanta)

    Anyone who falls for these flawed and flat deceptive "polls" needs to get educated...there is NO WAY that asking "402 Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP" is going to accurately reflect the outcome of ANY political contest.

    CNN and other news media outlets need to stop being deceptive and manipulative with so-called "national polls" and shut the hell up in favor of getting to the issues that matter – polls DO NOT MATTER!!

    November 21, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  19. Dave in OC

    I like Ron Paul but lets be honest here. He was 13% in May and is 9% now. I don't call that a surge!

    November 21, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  20. Phattee

    Gingrich is a former Congressperson who is now a full-time influence peddler.

    November 21, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  21. Jon

    Qualified? Maybe. But I'm having a little trouble getting over the whole "cheating-on-his-wife-on-her-deathbed" thing.

    November 21, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  22. ash

    North Carolina Republican Straw Poll Results:
    Ron Paul: 52.2%
    Gingrich: 22.1%
    Cain: 13.3%
    Romney: 3.6%
    Bachmann: 2.8%
    Santorum: 1.9%
    Perry: 1.9%
    Other: 1.3%
    Hunstman: 0.6%
    Johnson: 0.3%

    November 21, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  23. kp

    The man is a long time crook, he is out there to sell his books.

    November 21, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  24. Sir Isaac

    Nooooooooot! Dawn of the Newt World Order! The Newtclear Option! All hail the Fig-Meister!

    November 21, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  25. v_mag

    It wouldn't surprise me to see Huckabee or Pawlenty hop into the race. The Grover-Owned Party has been scraping the bottom of the barrel for a not-Romney candidate for so long, and they're just about to the hard sludge layer. What else can the Repugnants do, except to concede the election at this point? The whole of the last 3 years has been spent trying to obstuct everything so that Obama could be defeated, and now they don't have a candidate who could win the dogcatcher job in Orange County.

    On the other side, very few folks are enthusiastic about voting for Barack again. This should be the year for a third party candidate, but the system is so rigged against it, there is hardly any point in somebody trying it. Paul knows that. So, I'd guess this will be one of the lowest turnout elections in history. After all, what's the point? Your vote doesn't even count unless you live in a swing state.

    November 21, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
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