CNN Poll: Still no front-runner in the battle for the GOP nomination
The Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center on September 4, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
May 5th, 2011
12:15 PM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Still no front-runner in the battle for the GOP nomination

Greenville, South Carolina (CNN) - A new national poll indicates the race for the Republican presidential nomination remains wide-open, with none of the probable or potential GOP White House contenders above 20 percent, according to a new national poll.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey's Thursday release comes hours before the first Republican presidential debate of the 2012 election cycle. The debate is being held in South Carolina, which holds the first southern primary on the road to the White House.

The poll also indicates President Barack Obama is ahead of all probable and possible GOP candidates tested in hypothetical general election matchups, but the person who comes closest to Obama may surprise you.

According to the survey, conducted just before the news of the death of Osama bin Laden, 16 percent of Republicans and independents who lean Republican say they would be likely to support Mike Huckabee for the Republican presidential nomination. The former Arkansas governor ran for the White House in 2008, and while to date he hasn't taken many steps towards launching another campaign, he has definitely not ruled out another bid for his party's nomination.

Fourteen percent say they'd back Donald Trump. The billionaire businessman, real estate mogul and reality TV star says he will announce by June if he's going to run for the White House.

One point back is Mitt Romney, at 13 percent. The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 GOP White House candidate has been adding to his campaign team in recent months and last month launched a presidential exploratory committee.

The poll indicates that 11 percent support Sarah Palin. The former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee has not made any serious moves towards launching a campaign, but says she isn't closing any doors.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who has run for the White House twice before, both stand at ten percent in the poll. Both men have taken steps towards formally launching campaigns. Everyone else questioned in the survey registered at five percent or less.

"No GOP candidate has a statistically significant lead, so it's way too soon to start talking about frontrunners," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Is it all about name recognition at this still relatively early point in the GOP horserace?

"Yes, but name recognition alone is not enough. Otherwise one of the best known candidates, Palin, would not be stuck in fourth place. Trump and Palin, with the highest name ID, also have the highest unfavorable ratings," adds Holland.

Fifty-nine percent of all Americans dislike the former Alaska Governor and 64 percent have a negative view of Trump, according to the poll. The survey indicates Gingrich also has relatively high unfavorables, but the favorable ratings for Romney and Huckabee outweigh their unfavorables, although both are unknown to more than a quarter of the general public.

Seventy-eight percent of Democrats or independents who lean Democrat say they back Obama as the party's presidential nominee next year, with just over one in five saying they'd prefer another Democrat. That number has remained relatively consistent over the past year.

What about the showdown in November 2012?

According to the poll, taken before the announcement of Osama bin Laden's death, President Barack Obama has an edge over all the top GOP candidates in hypothetical match-ups.

Who does best against Obama? Paul. The congressman from Texas, who also ran as a libertarian candidate for president in 1988 and who is well liked by many in the tea party movement, trails the president by only seven points (52 to 45 percent) in a hypothetical general election showdown. Huckabee trails by eight points, with Romney down 11 points to Obama.

The poll indicates the president leading Gingrich by 17 points, Palin by 19, and Trump by 22 points.

"It should be obvious to any political observer that hypothetical general election match-ups at this stage of the game have relatively little predictive value," says Holland.

"GOP primary match-ups are another matter - since the modern era of presidential primaries began in 1972, there have been six times when the GOP nomination was up for grabs. In five of those six election cycles, the eventual GOP winner was leading the polls taken in April of the previous year. That may mean little in 2011 since no Republican hopeful has a commanding lead, but it also means that the history books won't let us completely dismiss these polls," adds Holland.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted April 29-May 1, with 1,034 adult Americans questioned by telephone. All interviews were completed before the president announced that bin Laden, the founder and leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network and the man responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

Filed under: 2012 • CNN poll • Polls • Republicans
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Cederico

    The best thing for Obama is that he leads the main GOP contenders by a large amount prior to the killing of Bin Laden. Things weren't going great for him prior to the capture yet he still had strong numbers for re-election.

    Can you imagine the matchup numbers if the poll was conducted today?

    May 5, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  2. GOP Clown Car Parade

    The GOP has been predictable for decades. They sell fear, bigotry, and comforting – yet empty – buzz phrases to their increasingly under-educated support base. In return, their voters get more and louder us vs. them rhetoric, which is all their base really wanted in the first place – a home team that looks like them. Forget the building and strengthening of this nation for all Americans now and in the future, just give them increasingly dumbed down irrelevancy that can hurl insults. No substance required. After a while, even their base can't justify enough reasoning or excitement to push their own candidates. It's a plan to nowhere, GOP & you've arrived at your destination.

    May 5, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  3. Jilli

    Hmmm...last week wasn't the frontrunner "Someone Else"? Still works for me.

    May 5, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  4. Bing

    According to the recent Pew findings, Ron Paul is the only candidate listed here whose political views align with much of the (very divided) Republican voters. That's why he has the best shot against Obama, and that's why he could take Obama down in a 1-vs-1 final election (since Paul's anti-war, anti-drug-prohibition stances could sway liberal voters away from Obama's broken promises).

    All eyes on Ron Paul tonight, and going forward. I donated to him today, and I'm not the only one.

    May 5, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  5. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Americans aren't interested in these Republican contenders who use code words, talk trash instead of policy, use the political platform to sell books/celebrity shows for their own personal wealth and then show up in the media and talk about how bad our President is, it's just not going to work, not this time. Huckabee is no better than Trump or Palin and he's a so-called preacher man, working for Fox, building a million dollar home and then stating he has to think about health insurance for his family and paying for his mansion before he throws his hat in the ring, I find him to be disgusting.

    May 5, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  6. cbl

    I have it very interesting that the GOP wishes to give Pres. Bush all the credit for osama's end, but refuse to acknowledge that his 8 yrs in office created this mess we r end now. Simply, cowboying and John Wayneing every issue shown the lack of thought and planning that many great leaders possess.

    May 5, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  7. Tony

    I agree with S. In California. I also think Palin and Trump are not helping the GOP at all. The GOP will be guilty by association. Speaker Boehner leadership has been an extreme disappointment and it will become an issue.

    May 5, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  8. clarence thomley

    There are no winners, this field is weak and full of demagogues. You would think that if the GOP really felt Obama is a one-termer, they would get more serious about their candidates because every one of these is a joke and will do nothing to advance our nation. These are all regressive candidates who will do more harm than good.

    May 5, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  9. brody

    Can we please admit now that Ron Paul is a "top-tier" candidate? I'm tired of the government propaganda outlets still trying to marginalize him as if this were '08, it's time to admit that Ron Paul is a serious, "top-tier" candidate, and has the best chance of beating Obama, the poll numbers are right there.

    May 5, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  10. macaca

    The GOP Candidates are all a bunch of hateful clowns. I wouldn,t vote for anyone of them!

    May 5, 2011 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  11. Dustin

    I WILL vote for RON PAUL over Obama in 2012. Any other Repub...not so much....

    May 5, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  12. FactCheck

    Doesn't matter who they put up, it's not going to happen. The party ran on a platform of "jobs, jobs, jobs" and all anyone has seen from them since is a bunch of birthers, anti-middle classers and corporate shills.

    May 5, 2011 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. seriously???

    @The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE – The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends

    1. It's not a welfare society, and 2. your candidates are about as fresh as a tupperware container of refried beans that'd been forgotten in the fridge for about six months. 3. OBAMA 2012.

    May 5, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  14. jed

    I thought Trump was? Palin? Oh my, " Do,nt tell me these Intellectuals have fallen? Thats going to Keep me awake tonight. I,ll just drink some warm milk? Yah.

    May 5, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  15. Republican Robber Baron

    It's over. Don't even bother...the GOP truly has nothing to offer and is completely stuck in the past. The Neo-Confederate extremists have hijacked the party and want to turn the clock back to the 1800's.

    The top candidates, Romney and Trump...epitomize everything that is wrong with the GOP by having Elitist Robber Barons that eat with diamond-plated silver spoons. Trump is a billionaire, and Romney is not far behind. Romney keeps acting as if he is Ronald's getting old.

    May 5, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  16. Josh

    Thats right cnn readers get ready for the loss of this loser Obama. Hows the wallet. Mines fat because of my tax break. and i'm black so dont even try racism. Loser liberals

    May 5, 2011 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  17. chuck

    I am sold tottally on Mike Huckabe and will very probably write him on the ballot if the washington elite gang up on him like in 2008.and refuse to debate ane the like.

    May 5, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  18. gabby

    So.. two 'top-tier' candidates in tonight's debate...Paul and Pawlenty. But only Paul comes close to beating Obama in a general election match-up.

    As popular as Obama is right now with the Bin Laden killing, it's remarkable Paul is behind the incumbent President by only 7%.

    May 5, 2011 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  19. Amber

    They try to downplay the fact that Ron Paul is in the lead with republicans because he's not a neocon. When he started his money bomb at midnight last night it got 100k in less than five minutes and broke the ticker! There's no denying us in 2012 we're here and stronger than ever!!!!

    May 5, 2011 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  20. Indy

    Not true, Trump is their leader and he is the very best they have to offer, even though he does not stand a chance of winning. Next is their leader Sarah Palin who they have wrapped their arms around for the past two years. All the others have been there done that has beens so Trump is your leader and you let him get there GOP's so you can have him.

    May 5, 2011 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  21. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It would be nice to have a third or fourth party to get more people in there and have more understanding of what some people want. It would be nice to have a more powerful libertarian party for Ron Paul and something that reflects the concern of those that want more responsible people in office and as citizens.

    May 5, 2011 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  22. Tim A.

    Ron Paul 2012

    A candidate that would actually end the wars, stop the bailouts, and restore liberty.

    May 5, 2011 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  23. Dr. Kibble

    Don't count out Ron Paul!

    May 5, 2011 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  24. Aaron

    Ron Paul 2012.

    End the wars, corporatism & prohibition.

    May 5, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  25. Mike

    Those intelligent freedom lovers who read Liberty Defined will vote for Ron Paul. Hopefully the mainstream media won't try to distort his support again this time, but it looks like they've already started.

    May 5, 2011 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
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