CNN Poll: Two-thirds of Republicans say minds are not made up
October 17th, 2011
12:14 PM ET
10 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. stopthe

    "William Lee" – you are correct. However, we the people let this happen ourselves by accepting that our only role in politics is to vote. As soon as we do that, the political class is free to present us with a "choice" of candidates that is really no choice at all – or as you said, a choice between welfare-state plutocracy from the Left and global military/corporate empire plutocracy from the Right. (Pick 60% of one, and 40% of the other – whichever 60/40 split you want!)

    As soon as Americans reject that their only involvement in politics is to "choose", and instead demand full political participation, then we will have real change.

    The protest movements around the country are an example of this. While you may not agree with their views, the protestors are demanding a direct hand in deciding political solutions. They are not satisfied with choosing between solutions drafted behind closed doors by a political elite – those solutions have never worked and will never work.

    We should all do the same. Politicians are pretending that they support these protests, but I suspect that deep down, it unnerves them.

    October 17, 2011 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  2. ebinrock

    My mind was made up back in 1990 – either RON PAUL or a libertarian for president!

    RON PAUL 2012 or this country's GONE.

    October 17, 2011 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  3. newt

    These guys make Obama look sooooooooo good.

    October 17, 2011 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  4. Sarah

    I've already decided to vote for Herman Cain. I love how the GOP elite who "play" enemies with the liberals out there are misconstruing Herman Cain's "999" plan? Why? They're terrified of this guy. Much as I believe Karl Rove is a deceiver, I will give him credit for this: He was right in saying Herman Cain should go for Iowa. Herman Cain needs to grab every opportunity that's offered to him. I guarantee: If Romney is the GOP nominee, Barry Obama will be President for a 2nd term. It's about time for the GOP to get it's head out of it's rear-end and start backing the right people.

    October 17, 2011 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. Cassandra Chu

    Romney is a polished plastic political doll and belongs to an odd cult.
    Perry is a complete Texas Moron (low IQ) and is an Evangelical freak.
    Paul is short and the media hates him because he scares the media; thus, he has no chance.
    Gingritch is probably the smartest... but he apparently made everybody mad decades ago...

    October 17, 2011 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  6. Sarah

    john applebee:

    We don't hate taxes, we just don't believe taxes should be oppressive

    October 17, 2011 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  7. Ahmadinijhad

    Herman Cain versus Obama would be a funny choice for Americans to choose between. Heh heh what goes around comes around.

    October 17, 2011 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  8. Truth Detector

    The American people will vote for almost anyone who runs against this failed, wee-weed up, racist, present-voting, one-term, community-organizer-in-chief.

    He will not stand for re-election. Liberals can't stand to lose a straight up and down referendum on their personal failures. Obama will pull an LBJ. Hillary will be at the top of the Democrats' ticket. She will be clobbered. She, her faithful husband, Obama, and their party will blame the loss on - wait for it - President Bush.

    October 17, 2011 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  9. Segregationist

    It's time to take this country back from the communists. Ron Paul 2012!!!

    October 17, 2011 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. SaintM

    Dudley0415–you are dead wrong if you think that Romney has nothing to hide. With all his flip-flopping that had been caught on audio/video tape–he's toast. He is a department store mannequin, and if he is the nominee, there will be even more vetting and digging of dirt. You are only untested when you are the nominee and have past the vetting test. He will be no competition against Obama, who was fully vetted, and withstood firestorms but was still elected.

    October 17, 2011 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  11. The Real Tom Paine

    The Ron Paul supporters really need to get a grip: just because your super-annuated candidate wins straw polls that only reflect the truly believers who drop everything to vote, DOES NOT translate into broad-based support. He won't get elected, period.

    October 17, 2011 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  12. Fett

    Don't forget the Blue Republicans who are going to vote for Paul in the primary. These polls are always with registered Republicans. They never include them.

    Ron Paul has the youth vote the Obama got in '08.

    October 17, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  13. Poor Poor American

    Thats as good at it get's. More rich people in the white house.

    October 17, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  14. Real Truth!

    Ron Paul!!! Write him in you have to. I will !!! No other good choice. The Truth is what we need not more Liars who will continue the same crap. The Media and Status quo will not decide for me! I believe most people are Just Afraid of Freedom. They talk a good game but are actually cowards When it comes down to reality! So they go along with whatever the media tells them or wants them to believe. Just to scared to take a stand and Vote for Ron Paul who has been right and warning everyone for 30 years. The Truth is Ron Paul has more Support then any other Canidate!!! Ron Paul 2012 !!!!! is my only Vote!

    October 17, 2011 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain

    The GOP is going to pick Romney for their nominee; they are probably also toying with the idea of Cain as VP as a ploy to siphon off black Democratic voters.

    Here's the dilemma, though: It wasn't until 1978 that the Mormon church allowed black men to ascend to the Mormon priesthood (unlike virtually all other male head-of-households). Plus, there are many in the GOP base that think Mormons belong to a cult and are racist against black people.

    Quite a problem the GOP has created for itself – but then again, they're pretty desperate, given that they don't have a record of accomplishment to run on and given the fact that all their economic, military and foreign policies are PROVEN FAILURES.

    October 17, 2011 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  16. Joe

    Romney is the only guy to grow this economy again based on his record in the private sector and in the government....If only the mormon haters put their hatred aside this race has been already over!!!

    October 17, 2011 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  17. Columbus

    It's pretty easy to see that Romney will appeal to a broader spectrum of independents, which is where the real race will be. Novelties from Palin, to Bachmann, to Perry, to Cain, are in the realm of drama for the media, and a touch of extremism for the right. That's OK for reality TV, but we need someone who can be a serious president. Still not sure I see anybody on either side, dem or repub, who could get the job done. Need a third party!

    October 17, 2011 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  18. Albert

    3 things folks need to remember about the current candidates.
    1. Running the US is NOT the same as running a winter olympics in Utah.
    2. 9.99 only works for pepperoni and cheese NOT the economics and taxation system of the United States.
    3. If you're a bad governor in Texas, you'll be an even worst president in the United States.

    October 17, 2011 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  19. Rigged poll

    This poll was rigged. Ron Paul would clearly have been the highest.

    October 17, 2011 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  20. jam

    I wonder how many people Ron Paul pays, plus his family, to do all of these posts for him. It's getting a little ridiculous especially since Obama is going to win anyway. It seems as if every post you read has at least half Ron Paul B.S. There is not a sane or believable republican candidate running.

    October 17, 2011 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  21. Jake

    I am a mormon and life-long republican who voted for Obama....because I thought he was bright and could made decent decisions for the good of the country. I had no idea he was as liberal as his campaign presented him. And he is turning out to be corrupt.

    This time I'm voting for Romney. Not because he's mormon, but because he's a second-chance to elect someone bright and able to get things done. You read about the turn-around he made with the Olympics, but you don't read about back-room and corrupt deals to get it done–he gets results and it appears he doesn't compromise integrity. I hope he's our candidate.

    October 17, 2011 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  22. Alec

    To all of the presidential candidates: We the People of the United States of America are sick and tired of your bitter bipartisan ways, we ask for a president who will not promise us change and deliver nothing, we ask for a president who won't run up the national debt anymore, we ask for a president that will stand up to wall street and for the 99%.
    Most of all, we are sick of an ineffective government that refuses to shed its archaic attitude.

    If a 3rd party candidate were ever to be president, next year could be it. we are tired of this self destructive bipartisan government. Like if you would vote for a 3rd party candidate if he/she were competent!

    October 17, 2011 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  23. Patrick

    I am not a Republican (nor a Democrat; used to be a Republican) and I believe in voting for the right person regardless of political affiliation. Mitt Romney, to me, seems like the most sane and moderate Republican choice – I would support him over Obama (but not Cain and DEFINATELY not Perry).

    October 17, 2011 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. blanchettz

    This poll is ridiculous and skewed. Please delete this article.

    October 17, 2011 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. Howdy Doody

    Can you imagine the corruption here? Can you imagine the amount of money that must go in to these polls if they are so corrupt? Ron Paul is winning every straw poll out there, he is a tremendous favorite because the Republicans, unlike the democrats tend to know their politics pretty well, and by now they have to be tired of the BS. I cannot imagine Romney a favorite of theirs, and Mr. Cain is a good joke, but seriously now folks...imagine the corruption and money that goes around against Paul.....I think Ron Paul should come in and take that money away from them....and this is why I think they fear him so much...for he is likely going to do exactly that. Making money is a good thing. Making easy dishonest money for the purpose of destroying a democracy is evil. Ron Paul should win this easy as far as I can tell, and then its going to be real ugly when the one percent actually has to face THE 99 PERCENT on equal footing!

    October 17, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
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