Politics

Huckabee's Name ID, Favorables Surge Over Past Month

by Joseph Carroll

Still more than half of Americans are unfamiliar with him

PRINCETON, NJ -- As Americans have become more familiar with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the past few weeks, their assessments of him have become much more positive, with Americans about twice as likely to rate him favorably as unfavorably in the latest USA Today/Gallup poll. Even with the increased attention to his candidacy, however, a slim majority of Americans still say they are not familiar with Huckabee. When Americans are asked what comes to mind when they think of Huckabee, a sizable majority cannot name anything, but those who can name something tend to say that they like him, that he is a good prospect and a rising star, and that he is a nice, down-to-earth guy. Few Americans say anything negative about him.

In the past month, support for Huckabee as the Republican nominee for president has increased significantly, from 10% to 16%. Huckabee is now essentially tied for second place with Fred Thompson, John McCain, and Mitt Romney behind front-runner Rudy Giuliani in the contest to win the Republican Party's 2008 presidential nomination. For more information, see Frank Newport's Dec. 4 analysis of the Republican nomination race in Related Items.

Huckabee's Favorable Ratings

According to the Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2007, poll, 33% of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of Huckabee, while 16% have an unfavorable opinion and 51% say they are not familiar enough with Huckabee to rate him. This is a rather dramatic change from early November, when Americans were equally divided between positive (18%) and negative (18%) views of Huckabee. As he has become better known, Huckabee's favorable rating has increased substantially, while his unfavorable rating has held steady.

As would be expected, Republicans are much more positive than independents or Democrats in their views of Huckabee; still, his positive ratings among all three party groups have increased significantly in the past month.

As the table shows, a slight majority of Republicans, 53%, say they have a favorable opinion of Huckabee, up 26 points since early November. Republicans have consistently rated Huckabee more positively than negatively since August, when Gallup first asked about him.

Even though Democrats' ratings of Huckabee are at their most positive level to date, Democrats are still about equally likely to rate Huckabee favorably (20%) as unfavorably (21%). But that is an improvement compared with the October and early November ratings, when Democrats were on balance negative toward him.

Huckabee's favorable rating among independents has increased by 11 points since early November and, for the first time, it is significantly more positive than negative. From August through early November, independents were about evenly divided in their views of Huckabee.

Americans' Thoughts on Mike Huckabee

Gallup's November Panel poll -- conducted late last month -- asked Americans to say, in their own words, "What comes to mind when [they] think about former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee." Key findings from this are that 1) a majority of Americans at the time of this survey were not familiar enough with Huckabee to say anything about him; 2) most of what Americans did say about Huckabee was positive; and 3) few Americans mentioned anything negative about him.

Sixty-five percent of Americans in this Nov. 26-29, 2007, Gallup Panel poll were not able to say anything about Huckabee. In a heated political environment, things change on a daily basis, and it is likely that Americans are quickly becoming more familiar with Huckabee.

Given the lack of a well-defined image of Huckabee, it is not surprising that no common themes emerge in response to the open-ended question. The things Americans most commonly say about Huckabee are that they like him or view him favorably (mentioned by 6%), that he is a good prospect, a rising star, and is becoming popular (4%), has good Christian values and is religious (3%), is a nice guy and down to earth (3%), and is conservative (3%). Fewer Americans mention Huckabee's perceived honesty, their dislike of him, agreement with his views, that he is unlikely to win, that he has lost a lot of weight, and his endorsement by action-film star Chuck Norris.

One emerging pattern in the open-ended responses is that positive comments far outweigh the negative. Nineteen percent of Americans mention something clearly positive about Huckabee, while just 3% mention something clearly negative. Four percent mention something that could be positive to some and negative to others -- that he is a conservative, that he is a Republican, and their familiarity with the Chuck Norris commercial.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Results for the Panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,003 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 26-29, 2007. Respondents were drawn from Gallup's household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. The final sample is weighted so it is representative of U.S. adults nationwide. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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