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. 9bye9bye9

    Pathetic choice ... Newt.

    November 21, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  2. John

    That Right the Republican are getting so hard up there top choice Is a man that was force to resign from Congress on 84 ethics Charges and he Cheated on two wife one that was sick with Cancer.

    November 21, 2011 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  3. SecedingfromTexas

    Gingrich said during the "Cryin' Time", confessional, held at the Family Leader Forum, that ".......this shows how
    far the left wing has collapsed as a moral system".
    We are now learning that the right wing has now collapsed as a moral system, in that they spew gibberish
    regarding "faith", "family", righteous preaching, while embracing the immoral, greedy, and corrupt Gingrich as
    their current 'savior'. Let's add to the list: mean spirited (attacking all moderators during debates);
    bigger flip flopper than Romney (global warming, mandated insurance, Iraq, Libya, the list is long), Ryan Plan (oops).
    So, what is missing here: Things like trust, respect, honesty, and integrity. Gingrich is void of all of these, and
    now the Teacans are too. Gingrich/Norquist – the destruction of America.

    November 21, 2011 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  4. Paul

    LOL!!! Get outta here... is this a joke?

    November 21, 2011 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  5. Ed

    Whoever the libs hate the most is obviously who the GOP should run. Sic'em Newt.

    November 21, 2011 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  6. Kevin SC

    I am just so tired of Mainline News Media bull! I would think they would do an "OZ melt" if they ever told the real truth! I guess I'm on a "Quest" to find a "Mainliner" who may actually "Step up to the Plate" and tell the real truth. There's a few, but very few indeed!

    November 21, 2011 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  7. Robert

    I woun't vote for him, i rather move to canada then vote for him

    November 21, 2011 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  8. James Mason

    The only thing that pleases me about this, is that my lame Senator – Kelly Ayotte – has already endorsed Wrongny. So this gives her a chance to be obviously and publicly wrong within her own party! Hooray!

    November 21, 2011 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  9. Kakki

    This is appalling. A hypocrite, adulterer and adulteress in the White House.

    November 21, 2011 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  10. andrew

    I guarantee this is a lie made up by the media corporation, particularity cnn

    November 21, 2011 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    @Marie MD, Paul is honestly the best candidate. It is hard to deny the fact his foreign policy is right on. No one else will stand up and stop policing the world. We are in a debt crisis and like he mention in his Face the Nation interview last night, we have 900 bases in 130 countries! That is almost an average of 7 per. We need to focus in on our own nation and rebuild. Paul has the ability to stand up to the corporations and do what is right. The people of America should see this and support it. He is the only candidate that is not fake and untrustworthy. Paul 2012.

    November 21, 2011 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  12. Katie

    The best to bubble to the top is a Newt to replace an Obama. B a r f.

    November 21, 2011 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  13. g reg

    Ron Paul will win. I wish the media would stop trying to control the race. Everyone knows Ron Paul collects more money from more people than any other candidates and he has won the many of the straw polls. The only ones he doesn't seem to show results in are the ones the 4 major media outlets do. Who are these idiots polling? Walk on the street, talk to people. Everyone I talk to says they would vote for him, but he doesn't have a chance. Maybe if we all started realizing how much of a chance he has, it would become clear that he is #1. How much has Gingrich raised? How much has Perry raised? How much has Romney raised? Now take out corporate and foreign donors. Paul has raised money from 10,000 of actual Americans. Thats hard to say for any other candidate.

    November 21, 2011 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  14. JonahBC

    As long as you are Caucasian, Christian and still breathing the GOP are happy campers.....

    November 21, 2011 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  15. semper fi

    When Newt was speaker I wanted him as President. If Colin Powell won't run then Newt.

    November 21, 2011 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  16. Alexander

    Congratulations to Newt! Congratulations to all Republicans - you have made your choice!

    ...and congratulations to the Democrats because Newt will be easier to beat!

    November 21, 2011 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  17. potomaccrafter

    Ron Paul is at 9% NATIONALLY? That's actually pretty impressive, considering the strong message he is presenting!

    November 21, 2011 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  18. nathan

    We Obama supporters kneel and pray that Newt will be the nominee...

    November 21, 2011 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  19. Fred Evil

    This says NOTHING about Newt.
    But it speaks heavily re: the desperation and delusion the right is willing to operate under, in order to more thoroughly damage this country. Newt is a JOKE.
    Most telling, is that Romney (the only one who stands a chance against Obama) is utterly unpalatable to his OWN PARTY.
    MITT!! They will NEVER accept you! You are a 'Mormon,' and so they look down on you, and will NOT elect you.

    The GOP's biggest problem right now is the GOP. If they had ANY semblance of their 'stuff' together, Obama would be in real trouble. But they don't, so he isn't. Obama is looking like an absolute LOCK in 2012!!

    November 21, 2011 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  20. Ronald W Cassese

    How desparate is the GOP? This guy is sa self serving clown!

    November 21, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  21. Bob

    Those of us who were employed by the Federal Government in the mid 1990s know Mr. Gingrich very well. He was the cause of a lenghty Governmental shut down. If he is chosen, may there should be another entry on the ballot, "NONE OF THE ABOVE"

    November 21, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  22. S.positive

    President Obama will win in 2012

    November 21, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  23. Wayne

    hey consider our choices in the GOP..... slim pickings.... LMAO

    November 21, 2011 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  24. Tim

    Newt would mop the floor with Obama in a debate.
    He has the facts, Obama has the rhetoric and finger pointing.

    November 21, 2011 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. Mike In Idaho

    Funny that CNN has Ron Paul at 9%. Nearly all other polling has Ron at the top or in 2nd, occasionally 3rd. Both Liberals and "Conservatives" (RINO's) are terrified of Ron. Ron Paul is the only man/woman in Washington who is not corrupt. Do not believe the results of CNN or FauX polls. Ron Paul Is Rising!

    November 21, 2011 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
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