Gingrich at top of pack for first time in CNN polling
November 21st, 2011
04:01 PM ET
2 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. carly

    Amazing how time creates amnesia among right wingers. Gingrich is an adulterer, ethics violator and was kicked out as Speaker by his own party. And let's not forget that he is also a hypocrite for railing against Freddie and Fannie and then accepting $1.6-$1.8 million for providing them with "advice" (not lobbying ;-)

    November 21, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  2. TheMovieFan

    Newt Gingrich? I'm a Democrat who'd like to see him nominated but even rational Republicans must recognize that this guy is unelectable.

    November 21, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  3. PHinMiami

    "Most Qualified", . . . God help us all.

    Cheated on his wife and served divorce papers while she was in the hospital having surgery. This man is not qualified to be a decent human being, let alone candidate.

    Lest we forget his >1 million dollar payment for an 'alliance' with Freddy Mac,

    The GOP doesn't have 'front-runners' anymore, they have trash rising to the top as the rest sink.

    November 21, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. David Keener

    Newt thinks OCCUPY movement are nonworking welfare types. He is so wrong. But look the other way at the MILLIONS of dollars failed Freddy and Fannie paid him ! For what? Forget that he left Congress after his own party booted him from the Speakership! And now, he is our Savior? I wouldn't vote for this idiot if I were scrapping the barrel for another choice!

    November 21, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  5. StayIgnorant

    None of these "Republican" "candidates" is even qualified to clean my toilet, much less be elected POTUS. Try again, evangelical bigots.

    November 21, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  6. Jean

    Yeah, he's qualified.

    For those Americans living in a blind hutch in the middle of the Arctic tundra - who do not mind a commander-in-chief who's missing morals and ethics - and who do not frown upon serial philanderers (see 'morals and ethics').

    Then he's just fine.....

    November 21, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  7. ADM

    Welp, it's a guaranteed Dem win this time around.

    November 21, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  8. Jeff

    Gingrich is just another establishment crony that will continue the lobbyist driven policies of bush and obama. Ron Paul is the only candidate that will end the perpetual war abroad, and the perpetual war at home waged on the American people by the Federal Reserve. RON PAUL 2012, or don't complain when nothing changes.

    November 21, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  9. Bill

    Hey CNN how about you poll someone under 50!!

    Every age category under 50 is N/A. You all know if they polled some younger voters also Ron Paul would be above 15% easy.

    Lets be fair please!!!!!!

    November 21, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  10. BossoMan

    Newt Gingrich ????? Now we know that Republicans are pathetic jokers. How in the world would any sensible person think that our dear arrogant Newt will ever win a presidential election in this country? What type of women will vote for Newt for example? and for those routing for Ron Paul to come on top, isnt he the clueless guy who said Obama should be prosecuted for killing America's worst enemies? Wake up Teapublicans, Get real for once. The storm from Occupy Wall Street will sweep all of you away in Nov 2010. Put your money on that.

    November 21, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  11. SixDegrees

    That'll last maybe a week. Gingrich has way too much baggage to win the nomination, but people have let it drift off their radars. Once they're reminded, he'll follow other pan flashes like Bachmann and Perry into his former quasi-obscurity.

    November 21, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  12. iBod

    Your kidding, right?

    ...This guy does not even want to be President!

    November 21, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  13. draxta

    Who is CNN polling? Idiots?
    This clown is not fit for the White House. Should he make it in it will completely reveal just how stupid the American public really is and they deserve someone like gingrich.
    I really fear for this country, I really do. There are so few leaders out there.

    November 21, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  14. BD70

    Newt as president. Now there is a scary thought...terrifying to be exact.

    November 21, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  15. Sheila

    No one is qualified to be commander in chief who has not served in the military. The idea of someone being in charge of military operations for an entire country that can't even read military insignia is ridiculous. At the very least, require every Presidential candidate to attend OCS – oh, and if they don't even know what OCS is, maybe they need to go twice.

    November 21, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  16. Corvus1

    This is the man who thinks CHILD LABOR is a good idea. Shows you the kind of person who votes Republican in this country.

    November 21, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  17. newt = lizard

    Newtie is a liar, a cheat and a whinner. Newtie is a pitiful choice.

    November 21, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  18. Drew

    This is not a comment on the results of this survey, but on the fact that the survey itself is flawed. Look at the polling sample data. Everyone surveyed was white, age 50 or more, from the suburbs in the South (Atlanta, perhaps??). How can they say that this survey sample represents the majority opinion of Republicans in other parts of the country, and every other demographic of the Republican party. I imagine that you'd get very different results if the poll included people of all ages and races from Texas, Iowa, California, etc. Using this kind of a very limited sample, and claiming that it represents the views of all Republicans is dangerous, inacurate and irresponsible.

    November 21, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  19. us1776

    Good 'ol Newt.

    How many wives has it been now? 7 or 8 ?

    .

    November 21, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  20. Never wrong

    Newt is the man. He will be the next president... flaws and all but he will be the next president.

    November 21, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain

    Has everyone forgotten that back in August, Newt claimed that he had 1,325,842 Twitter followers – only to have it revealed by a former staffer that 80% of those accounts were fake (inactive or dummy accounts)?

    Add this to Newt's long history of lying and the only conclusion is that he is a man of low character and totally unqualified to be POTUS.

    History – supposedly Newt's ace in the hole – it will come back to bite him big time.

    November 21, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  22. Sanbee

    OMG!! Now that is a really sad state of affairs. How can that idiot be the most qualified? Have we all forgotten that he tried to hoodwink us before......and failed mightily. I hope we're not so desparate this time around that we fall for his misrepresentations (or should I say untruths). Wake up America!!!

    November 21, 2011 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  23. yuri

    This portly and paunchy person as the POTUS, ha? He is full of hubris and hatred for the have nots. It will be fun to watch his face filled with panda dung.

    November 21, 2011 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  24. White Horse

    What has the GOP come down to. Please don't force the Republicans to vote for OBAMA in 2012!

    November 21, 2011 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  25. Jlenta

    you want more never ending wars? support any republican OR democrat, besides Ron Paul...

    Support the troops, end the bottomless wars, take care of our crumbling country, and defend our nation.....not everyone elses... and their borders... how about ours??

    VOTE RON PAUL 2012, the only non globalist running for president, and yes Obama is a globalist puppet....

    November 21, 2011 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
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