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

    Bullyork! It is a media lie. Gingrich is not electable!

    November 21, 2011 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  2. GoRonPaul!

    I find it very difficult to believe any polling numbers given by CNN. BUT... if this is true and Newt is leading by choice of the GOP voters, then may I ask you voters who were actually polled, why would Newt be your choice? Do you know about his beliefs, his stances on american issues, his history, his plan for america and do you believe in them? Do you trust him to lead our country towards something better and more promising not only for yourself but your children and grandchildren? Is he the person capable of making a POSITIVE difference in America? I ask that you truly examine each candidate and find the one that you can honestly answer yes to each of these questions. My vote will be for Dr. Ron Paul as I have never seen his ideas, his strategies, his beliefs, or his answers change. He is the one constant and in my opinion the ONLY one I would genuinely trust with my country. Please educate yourself voters! Ron Paul 2012!

    November 21, 2011 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  3. Tom H.

    Newt Gingrich????? Have those polled completely lost their minds?? Newt - Commander in Chief?? Why not Kermit?? Their voices and intelligence are about equal!!

    November 21, 2011 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. Charles Bowen

    Nice to see that the republican'ts can't find someone with even rudimentary intelligence to carry their banner . This clown will destroy the republicans and give cause for National Celebrations.... This is from a former republican.. The party of Can't (Republican't ) Has no clue how to fix this economy let alone run this Nation...... More ignoance in this party than in Nascar..... Hey have a nice day and remember to vote . Republicans are like Mushrooms feed them Shyte and keep em in the dark and they thrive but turn on the light and the whole crop dies.... Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    November 21, 2011 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  5. Joe Here in Colorado

    This poll is biased because it is 4 / 5 to landline owners. Who owns a landline? Older, less-informed, more conservative Americans.

    November 21, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  6. William

    Saying Newt is crooked is like the pot calling the kettle black. Mrs. Clinton also got a money advance for her book as well. Nothing wrong with that. Freddie and Fanny? That mess was implemented by the Dems after Newt left and many people were burned by that. Right now we have members of Congress making cash on insider trading. Newt was the man who reached over, shook Clintons hand and handed him compromise bills he signed and now Dems take credit for. Right now we need experience. He isnt my first choice, but compared to Obama or the rest of the field, he would be a better choice. I dont need him to be cuddly, i need him to create jobs and get our 15 trillion dollar debt under control.

    November 21, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  7. john malo

    What cnn does not tell you is that the pool used in the poll consisted of 800 liberals, 800 independents (too stupid to know that they are liberal) and 400 republicans.

    November 21, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  8. Mike

    Newt as the GOP flag bearer?? BRING IT ON!! BRING IT ON, PLEASE!!

    November 21, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  9. f

    Newt? Really? Who are they polling? Democrats? I am a lifelong Republican and I like Newt's policy knowledge, but I cannot see him getting elected President. Ron Paul should be the RNC choice with Newt or Romney as VP.

    November 21, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  10. MeinAustin

    Do you think he'll serve us with divorce papers when we are all dying of cancer like his first wife?

    November 21, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  11. mrability

    Its time to vote dem in 2012

    November 21, 2011 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  12. Colgate

    Like Trump, Palin and Cain, he has no intention of being president, just G(ett)ingrich running!

    November 21, 2011 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    OMG The US is under siege by the very phony and stupid.

    November 21, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  14. Dave

    Newticle Gangrene, ethically challenged, morally challenged, Tiffany challenged, and looking every inch the Toad he resembles. Oh yesssssss, run Newticle, run.

    November 21, 2011 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  15. chuck weidemann

    The economy,foreign affairs,taxes,cuts...none of that matters when our governing body is dysfunctional!!No president could lead this leader-less congress. Everyone for themselves seems to be the order of the day!! We've all heard of trickle about rebuild from the bottom up!! Elect people based on them being able to reason,not partisan fundamental crap! Reason is a virtue, clearly congress is sorely lacking this!! Newt,Obama, matters not when party comes before country!! People make this country.... so let's make it work. Fill congress with people who want to work things out and vote the hard line my way or highway bums out!!! Give them the ## ** highway!!

    November 21, 2011 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  16. GaryB

    Just what we need... A millionaire lobbyist in the White House who once shut down the government because he was unwilling to put the interests of the majority of Americans on a par with the interests of a choen few. Why would any sane and reasonably informed person of either party vote for this guy?

    November 21, 2011 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  17. Cindy

    This is the guy who is going to fire all the school janitors and make the kids clean the toilets!

    November 21, 2011 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  18. Gary N

    Newt Gingrich is not an honorable man. He's been divorced three times, cheated on both his previous two wives. The third wife is 23 years his junior and might be the next cheating victim.

    If Newt Gingrich cheated on personal relationships, then he might cheat on the American people. Newt Gingrich is America's biggest demagogue and savvy political opportunist to deceive the American people. He's not for the people and certainly will not be by the people.

    Herman Cain is at least needs another look at besides these Repulbican bozos pretending to be something they're not.

    November 21, 2011 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  19. Bookldy209

    Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could appreciate anything Gingrich said. But he did this week, something clear and succinct that many Americans heard: Get a job but first take a bath. (i.e., the 54% are tired of supporting so many others.)

    November 21, 2011 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  20. Billy

    I don't see Newt as pres.

    November 21, 2011 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  21. Trajan Long

    The reason CNN pushes Newt is because libs don't want to face Romney, who is clearly the most electable, the most moderate, and who has a track record of success in the REAL world Obama knows nothing about. I can't wait to see him debate Obama and his dismal record of failure and disaster.

    November 21, 2011 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  22. AGuest9

    Climate denial. Telling people to "take a shower and get a job", telling young people to start non-Social Security savings accounts. Ready for Newt, as we all get poorer? I've never seen so many full-time employees (even management) who are unable to afford the medical insurance deductions for their children. If you think it's bad now, wait until you see what this country will look like after 4 years of Newt.

    November 21, 2011 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  23. dolly lanna

    I guess if you were to include the Republican cast of hopefuls, Newt might be the most qualified. Seriously sad.
    "Newt sounds like what stupid people think smart people sound like" Paul Krugman.

    November 21, 2011 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  24. mrability

    awukk cain

    November 21, 2011 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  25. oldsportscar

    Hey I like Donna Brazil and I don't particularly like Newt, but when Donna trashes his idea of offering poor students jobs as school janitors....Hey I was poor and after school I had to walk 3 miles to work at the supermarket after school. Then I came home and did my homework. Wish that I could have stayed at school and gotten paid! Oh and yes, my job at the supermarket was a janitor. Donna, you seem to have no confidence that a poor person can work a few hours and also get decent grades. Only the rich can go to school without having to work during high school and certainly during college. Are you suddenly siding thinking like an elitist? Love ya Donna, but you've got anti-Newt blinders on for this one. Poor people need this opportunity.

    November 21, 2011 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
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