CNN Poll: Two-thirds of Republicans say minds are not made up
October 17th, 2011
12:14 PM ET
11 years ago

CNN Poll: Two-thirds of Republicans say minds are not made up

Las Vegas, Nevada (CNN) - One day before a CNN Western Republican presidential debate, a new national survey indicates that Mitt Romney and Herman Cain are essentially tied for the lead in the race for the GOP nomination, with Rick Perry dropping to a distant third.

But according to the CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday, only one third of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say their minds are made up.

See full results (PDF)

Programming note: GOP presidential candidates next face off at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday, October 18, in the CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada. Submit your questions for the debate here.

Twenty-six percent say they are likely to support Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who's making his second bid for the White House, with Cain, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host, at 25%. Romney's one point margin is well within the poll's sampling error. Cain has seen his support nearly triple, from 9% in September to 25%, while Romney's edged up four points.

According to the poll, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's at 13%. Perry quickly surged to the top of the national polls after he launched his campaign on August 13. But thanks to an uneven debate performance in late September, a distant showing at a much watched straw poll in Florida two days later, and constant attacks on his stance on illegal immigration and Social Security by the other candidates, Perry has faded in the polls. His strength has been cut in half since September in CNN polling.

"Republicans who support the tea party movement love Herman Cain - he gets support from 39% of them, more than double the number who support Mitt Romney," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Republicans who say they are nuetral toward the tea party back Romney by roughly the same margin – 35% of them favor Romney compared to just 14% for Cain."

The survey indicates that 9% back Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who's making his third bid for the presidency, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 8%, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota at 6%, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at 2%, and former Utah Gov. and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at 1%.

"There has been little change for the candidates in single digits since September - just two- to three-point swings for Paul and Gingrich and little or no change for Bachmann, Santorum and Huntsman," adds Holland.

According to the poll, only one third of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say they will definitely support the candidate they are currently backing, with two thirds saying they may change their minds.

"With only 33% of all Republicans saying that their minds are made up, it's far too early to say the race is over, or even that is has boiled down to a mano-a-mano fight between Romney and Cain," says Holland.

The survey indicates that most Republicans say they are satisfied with the field of GOP candidates still in the race, although only one in five describe themselves as very satisfied. Republicans who back the tea party are more satisfied with the field of candidates than Republicans who are neutral toward the tea party.

Is the GOP nomination worth fighting for?

"Most definitely. There is a big 'enthusiasm gap' between Republicans and Democrats that, if it persists, may boost the eventually GOP nominee's chances in 2012," says Holland.

Two thirds of all registered Republicans say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting next year, compared to less than half of all Democrats. In the 2008 election cycle, the Democrats were more enthusiastic that then GOPers, a major advantage that helped elect then Sen. Barack Obama.

Some of the current enthusiasm gap is likely due to the fact that the Republicans are in the middle of a classic battle for their party's nomination while Democrats, for now, have nothing to pay attention to. But if that gap persists once the primary season is over, Obama will have a more difficult road back to the White House. For the record, Democrats seem happy with Obama - eight in ten want to see the party re-nominate the President, his highest number on that measure since June.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from October 14-16, with 1,007 adults, including 416 Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points with a sampling error of five percentage points for questions asked only of Republicans.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story.

Also see:

CNN Poll of Polls: Romney and Cain battle for top spot

New national poll shows Cain at top

Poll: GOP shakeup in South Carolina

Filed under: 2012 • CNN/ORC International poll • Republicans
soundoff (225 Responses)
  1. agonyfIips

    So was this Poll done in Beverly Hills?

    October 17, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  2. FEDUP!!

    If Cain and Romney are neck & neck I guess this means Mr. Cain's popularity has now reached it's peak! How much longer until he falls off the radar?? This man is dangerous to the middle class and poor of America!!

    VOTE OBAMA 2012!!

    October 17, 2011 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  3. Tex71

    Looks like the GOP Flavor of the Week has changed from Pizza to the Taste of Money.

    October 17, 2011 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  4. David

    I vote based on media coverage. The one who gets the least coverage would mean the worst candidate for the main stream media, which means he's the best for me.

    I'm voting Ron Paul.

    October 17, 2011 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  5. David

    I'm voting Ron Paul

    October 17, 2011 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  6. Sarah S. in TN

    It's time for the GOP to define it's political borders. Right now, the GOP is like the transportation system in Mexico. Everything is always moving in every-which way, and there is no method to the madness. I think it's time for conservatives to split from the GOP. It's time for the PCCA to be developed: The "Party of Constitutionally Conservative Americans". If we don't stake our territory and say who we are, we'll be trampled underfoot. That's what is currently happening to conservatives because of the GOP's elite who are actually Rhinos. These people are out there exchanging political favors for their own introverted objectives and agendas....whether personal, or politcal. It's time for we conservatives to wear another jacket.

    October 17, 2011 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  7. Qdilse

    Just who in their right mind would want any of these jerks in the White House? The only halfway decent Republican running is Ron Paul but he'll never be nominated so we're stuck with all these other jerks!

    October 17, 2011 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. rohug

    Cain is not a professional politician that say's it all in my book. CAIN FOR PRESIDENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Get rid of the professional politicians. Since the other candidates are ganging up on him that is a number one reason for voting for him.

    October 17, 2011 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  9. Priorlogistical

    I used to be disinclined to vote Republican because I felt the party was not inclusive enough. This political season has proved that notion wrong. I'll not be voting Obama next year. Romney is my choice now.

    October 17, 2011 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  10. James Mason

    This is crazy! There's no way that 2/3 of Republicans EVEN HAVE MINDS!

    October 17, 2011 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  11. GL Lee

    @john applebee
    The Tea Party isn't against taxes... just watch someone other than Brian Williams for your news (no, the COS is worse). The Tea Party sees the reality of the tax burden and realizes that this is not the intention of the Founders. Government must have revenue, that only comes via taxation. The problem is that 1% of America is paying 38% of all taxes. 49% of America pays ZERO taxes. Where's your sense of fairness? Does it jibe with reality?

    October 17, 2011 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  12. Tim M

    Ron Paul for me.

    1 trillion dollars cut in 3 years sounds like a good start. Not more of this 50 billion over 10 years nonsense.

    Hard cuts need to be made now, not later.

    Did you hear that he would work for the 'average' salary of 39K? Paul will lead by example, and from the front. He is the 'every-mans' candidate.

    October 17, 2011 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  13. t.marino

    Can someone tell me what is electable about Herman Cain? More taxes for the middle class, less taxes for his rich friends. A plan that is based on complete nonsense. Really? Never in a million years would a sane person vote for this corporate shill.

    October 17, 2011 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  14. mark

    Cain is proof white people are hardly prejudiced against blacks running for president as long as they come with plans and talk like they mean business. Me as an example, he's now my #1 candidate, because he embraces things that NEED to be addressed. I particularity liked his stand on border security, which I believe is paramount and is something that obama is as scared to touch as he is to mention the words "islamic" anything etc.... Obama is a president with very little balls. Not to mention he started walking and acting too much like he's from the "hood" instead of as an honorary leader of a great country. I think it is pointless and foolish to re-elect someone that has not budged our economic situation in 4 years. Might as well give someone with new ideas a go. The way I see it romney and perry bring nothing to the table. romeny perhaps just thinks he should be president just based on his looks since he otherwise has no serious plans and perry is too religious in my book to be president to boot, i just see him as another bush. and the others can kick dirt...and and bachman is possed by the devil, she also sounds like a broken record everytime she speaks it's "me me me".

    October 17, 2011 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  15. USAisToast

    2/3 of GOP don't have their minds made up? There isn't a GOP candidate worth running for mayor of Elkspit, Iowa

    October 17, 2011 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  16. unsub

    i think im going to roll with Obama!

    October 17, 2011 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  17. Anon

    Once you put these thieves back in power you can say hello to new wars, higher debt, less taxes for the wealthy and coorporations, continued government and finance corruptions and so on.

    I'll bet you that they won't give a damn to create new jobs. Where? They are all in the big oil and big banks pockets, it's going to be about drilling more and more spills. They will never push clean energy, solar or new research for fusion/plasma. They will stop NASA and other health researches.

    They cannot be given power, this country is a Democratic one, not a Republic under Feudalism.

    October 17, 2011 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  18. mark

    whoever said cain is too radical doesn't understand that we need someone somewhat radical to move things in a different direction right now. romeny will really be just like obama i believe unless we get someone with an actual pair of cojones in that oval office things are not moving anywhere.

    October 17, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  19. Jeffrey

    Yes, I will vote for Herman Cain. 9-9-9 may not be perfect, but at least it's a plan... I am happy that we have an individual that is not a crazy politician. Let's get an American that is willing to stand on his own two feet. I am a Hispanic male that is ready for change; I am ready for a change that will bring us back to a country of opportunity...

    October 17, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  20. Natalie

    Ron Paul 2012. 'Nuff said.

    October 17, 2011 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  21. Hardlyharhar

    Wow, Cain and Romney, Are you kidding me people, Do these folks have any idea how foolish supporting either of these two really is, 9-9-9 is ridiculous, not to mention its a good way to get corporate to move their head quarters, and if by some miracle it could squeak through the legislation it would literally fleece the last bit of buying power that the middle class still retained.I don't need to even bash Romney, his record speaks loud and clear, but at least he actually has some experience governing. Its just to bad he wasn't better at it. And what about Obama who gets nothing done and prods his fanfare to blame Bush and the repulicans still. Everyone get a clue and wake up. The very subject matter that is being tossed around pretty much shows that our great nation will continue its downward spiral. I'm going to vote Ron Paul and hope for the best. The rest of the GOP crew are indeed hopeless.

    October 17, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  22. CTexas

    It's gonna be PERRY no matter what. It's all been decided in advance by the higher-ups!

    October 17, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  23. unsub

    i wouldnt vote for cain or his momma!

    October 17, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  24. Voice of Reason

    2/3 of Republicans' minds are not made up because you clowns in the media are hiding Ron Paul and/or repeating the mantra, "he can't win, he can't win". If you would tell the truth about this man, he'd easily be the favorite amongst Republicans and dominate the primary. The other candidates don't even belong on stage with him. In a one-on-one against Obama, I'll bet everything I own that Paul would destroy Obama. Obama is a corporatist warmonger who didn't change anything.

    October 17, 2011 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  25. hickenlooper

    There will be a third party to deal with next Nov. Their choice will be Perry or Cain. It could be " The Cain Train ", A.K.A. " Don't fuss with the bus ".

    October 17, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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