CNN Poll: Romney on top, Gingrich fading & Santorum rising in Iowa
December 28th, 2011
03:55 PM ET
2 years ago

CNN Poll: Romney on top, Gingrich fading & Santorum rising in Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) - Did Newt Gingrich peak too early?

A new survey of people likely to attend Iowa's Republican caucuses indicates that the former House speaker's support in the Hawkeye State is plunging. And according to a CNN/Time/ORC International Poll, one-time long shot candidate Rick Santorum has more than tripled his support since the beginning of the month.

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Twenty-five percent of people questioned say if the caucuses were held today, they'd most likely back Mitt Romney, with 22% saying they'd support Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Romney's three point margin is within the poll's sampling error.

The poll's Wednesday release comes six days before Iowa's January 3 caucuses, which kickoff the presidential primary and caucus calendar. The Iowa caucuses are followed one week later by the New Hampshire primary.

A new CNN/Time/ORC poll of likely primary voters in New Hampshire indicates that Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, remains the front-runner, far ahead of his rivals for the GOP nomination.

In Iowa, both Romney and Paul are each up five points among likely caucus goers from a CNN/Time/ORC poll conducted at the start of December. The new survey indicates that Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, is at 16% support, up 11 points from the beginning of the month, with Gingrich at 14%, down from 33% in the previous poll. Since Gingrich's rise late last month and early this month in both national and early voting state surveys, he's come under attack by many of the rival campaigns.

According to the survey, 11% are backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 9% are supporting Rep Michele Bachmann, and 1% are backing former Utah Gov. and former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who's spending nearly all his time campaigning in New Hampshire.

Santorum is campaigning on a shoestring budget, but he's visited all of Iowa's 99 counties and has made a strong pitch towards social conservative voters, who are very influential here in Iowa on the Republican side. Wednesday Santorum was up with a new radio spot on Hawkeye State airwaves touting endorsements by social conservative leaders. His pitch may be starting to pay off.

"Most of Santorum's gains have come among likely caucus participants who are born-again or evangelical, and he now tops the list among that crucial voting bloc, with support from 22% of born-agains compared to 18% for Paul, 16% for Romney, and 14% for Gingrich," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The survey suggests that turnout on January 3 could be crucial in determining who comes out on top in the caucuses.

"Santorum and Paul may benefit from lower turnout, since they have an edge over Romney among likely voters who say that 'nothing at all' would prevent them from attending the caucus," says Holland. "On the other hand, Romney appears to have an edge among those who attended the caucuses four years ago - he did finish in second place in 2008 – and Romney does best among older Iowans."

As a result, the poll suggests it's difficult to predict exactly whose supporters will show up at the caucuses and whose supporters will stay at home.
"Add in the fact that nearly half of Iowa respondents say they are undecided or could change their minds and it looks like Iowa is a wide open contest," adds Holland.

In New Hampshire, the CNN/Time/ORC poll indicates that Romney remains the overwhelming front runner. He's supported by 44% of likely GOP primary voters, up nine points from earlier this month.

Paul is at 17%, with Gingrich at 16%, down ten points from early December. Huntsman, who's hoping for a strong finish in the Granite State, is at 9%, with Santorum at 4%, Bachmann at 3%, and Perry at 2%.

"Iowa and New Hampshire are close together on the electoral calendar, but the two states are different in many significant ways," says Holland. "Born-again voters are less prevalent in New Hampshire, and only a third of New Hampshire likely voters say that moral issues such as abortion or gay marriage will be extremely or very important to their vote; in Iowa. More than half of likely caucus participants say that."

The poll indicates that Romney comes out on top in both states when likely voters are asked to name the GOP candidate who best represents the personal characteristics a president should have, and in both states he has a commanding lead when likely voters are asked which candidate has the best chance to defeat President Barack Obama in November.

But when likely caucus-goers in Iowa are asked to name the candidate who agrees with them the most on major issues, it's Paul who tops the list. And while Romney leads on that question in New Hampshire, it's where he gets his lowest marks from Granite State voters.

Fortunately for Romney, this may not be an issues-driven contest. In Iowa, only 44% say that issues are more important than the candidates' personal qualities; in New Hampshire, only 37% feel that way.

The CNN/Time poll was conducted by ORC International from Dec. 21-24 and Dec. 26-27, with 452 voters who are likely to participate in the Iowa Republican caucuses and 543 who are likely to vote in the New Hampshire Republican primary questioned by telephone. The New Hampshire survey's sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points. The Iowa poll's sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.


Filed under: 2012 • CNN poll • Iowa
soundoff (248 Responses)
  1. Jay

    Iowa is going to need a good cleaning after all this frothy Santorum rising everywhere!

    December 28, 2011 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  2. Vic

    The People Want Ron Paul! I cant wait for Jan 3 when CNN will have their mouths shut.

    December 28, 2011 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  3. Truth1

    Newt does not have truth in him. He changes everything to fit the situation. What I'd like to see him change is his wifes hair style...I mean give me a break, I don't know who is worse, hers or the Donalds.

    December 28, 2011 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  4. FedUpWithLife

    Too funny...

    December 28, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  5. Bob Bofelli

    The news media wants to destroy Newt because they know he could beat Obama in a debate.

    December 28, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. Tony

    Why in the hell is this website ignoring Ron Paul when he is... wow... really?

    December 28, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  7. roadwarrior

    anyone would be better than obama

    December 28, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  8. conoclast

    Kartoon Kandidates, there's still time left before Iowa for LOTS more issue-dodging and in-it stepping! Keep your eyes on the prize: MONEY; think about the plight of the American people later when you're not so busy! Oh and remember, last time out Iowa's sage republicans chose Huckabee.

    December 28, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  9. marionarneson

    Santorum is scary. If you want a President who lets religion shut off his brain waves then he is your guy. Wow you start scratching on this guy and it is very sad.

    December 28, 2011 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  10. Johnny

    Santorum is surging!

    December 28, 2011 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  11. Andrew Friet

    It's funny that CNN thinks their polls are relevant!

    December 28, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. James Mason

    Not sure why there's such a fuss to see who is going to be the loser in the 2012 election – but I guess it's all that the GOP has got going on, since governing and helping people isn't what they do.

    December 28, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. Janet

    It's disgusting that we have to put up with this crap for over 10 more months only to get a president with no concern for the middle class. If Obama gets re-elected we get 4 more years of deadlock with the middle class slowing disappearing. If the GOP gets the White House, the middle class will be gone in a year. We're screwed no matter what.

    December 28, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. Steve

    The problem with Santorum is his closet gayness. Just look at the guy and listen to him, you can tell he is in the closet. and he is very anti-gay, we have seen where the staunchest anti-gays usually are trying to kill something in themselves.

    December 28, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  15. Kaiser59

    What a pathetic joke Ron Paul is on top Ron Paul will win, cnn youre just as terrible as faux news, blatant lies and propaganda

    December 28, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  16. Squealy

    Man, everyone is gettin' a piece of the love except for the one republican that doesn't make me barf – Huntsman. Geez, even Santorum is getting his chance to be dropped like a hot potato. I demand equal rights for Huntsman!

    December 28, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  17. Victor81

    Spin spin spin spin spin spin spin. Ron Paul is going to surprise everyone except the ones who support him.

    December 28, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  18. yo

    It should be obvious that wall street wants Barack Obama and the best way to keep him in is to put the clowns that they have put up for the gop presidential race. Plus Barack Obama is way smarter then these wax models.

    December 28, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  19. jb1963

    Obama will walk right over these losers. They stand for nothing but the wealthy. How do you call Santorum a social conservative when he is a fiscal conservative too? If he likes being a social conservative he will loose the independent voters most of which do not vote based on social issues they are the better educated people who tend to listen to both sides and make a more rational decision. Sorry to say but the left has a better plan and the republicans just stand in the way not offering anything better.

    December 28, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  20. Bozzz

    this is all pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things. It wasn't that long ago that Pat Robertson won Iowa, and he was blitzed after that. Rick Santorum–the hands down winner of the "scariest-person-in-the-campaign" award– can do anything he wants, but once they leave Iowa he will wilt away like a morning glory in the July sun. And Newt? Not electable. Romney is probably the best choice of the field, but he's the wrong kind of Christian for too many people.

    December 28, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  21. Squealy

    @ Steve. Good nail! Yes, it is always the strongest deniers, isn't it?

    December 28, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  22. Janet

    We get the govenment we deserve. Americans don't know who their senators are but can quote Kim-what's-her-ass.

    December 28, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  23. Dennis Novak

    In a world where journalism is objective, the headline would read: Ron Paul and Mitt Romney in Statistical Dead Heat. It should probably show a picture of both these candidates as they ARE the news. It should NOT show pictures of candidates who are very unlikely to win unless it shows ALL of the candidates. CNN continues to sink to new lows in their biased opinionated faux news ...and they are not even subtle about their manipulation. Shame!

    December 28, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  24. anagram_kid

    And one week from today these candidates will forget all about Iowa and start pandering to the demographics in the next state and then the next and then the next...

    December 28, 2011 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  25. Reuben Andreessen

    Rick Santorum is finally getting recognized as a serious contender by the media. It's about time! Senator Santorum has an interesting plan to restore the manfacturing base of this country. It merits consideration.

    December 28, 2011 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
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