Huckabee, Bachmann Have Most Intense Following in GOP Field

by Frank Newport

Sarah Palin is best known, but her Positive Intensity Score trails

PRINCETON, NJ -- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leads the field of possible GOP presidential candidates in "positive intensity" among Republicans nationwide with a score of +25 among Republicans who are familiar with him, followed by Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota with a score of +20. Huckabee is recognized by 87% of Republicans, compared with Bachmann's 52%. A number of other possible Republican presidential candidates trail these two in Positive Intensity Scores, including Sarah Palin, who is the best known of the group.

Republican Presidential Candidate Images

These findings are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted between Feb. 28 and March 13 with more than 1,500 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide rating each of 12 potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates. Gallup now tracks these candidates' images on a daily basis, and will report aggregated results on Gallup.com on a weekly basis.

Gallup asks Republicans whether they recognize each potential candidate and, for each one they recognize, whether they have a strongly favorable, favorable, unfavorable, or strongly unfavorable opinion of that person. Gallup calculates a "Positive Intensity Score" for each person rated, based on the difference between strongly favorable and strongly unfavorable opinions among those who are familiar with him or her. This score provides an indication of the intensity of support among a candidate's base of followers at any given point in the campaign.

Overall, none of the 12 potential candidates generates a high level of intensely positive opinions. Huckabee has the highest Positive Intensity Score at +25, with 27% of Republicans who recognize him expressing a strongly favorable opinion and 2% expressing a strongly unfavorable opinion.

Bachmann is next on the list, with a Positive Intensity Score of +20 -- the difference between the 24% who have heard of her and have a strongly favorable opinion of her and the 4% whose opinion is strongly unfavorable. Her relatively high positioning on this list is noteworthy given her lower name identification of only 52%, indicating that she generates stronger-than-average reactions among those who know her.

The remaining 10 Republicans' Positive Intensity Scores range from +17 for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to +5 for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Notably, former Alaska Gov. and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Positive Intensity Score of +16 puts her below the top scorers, despite her almost universal name recognition of 96%.

Republican Candidate Images

Among the 12 potential candidates Gallup is tracking at this point, five have 70%+ name identification among Republicans: Palin, Huckabee, Gingrich, Romney, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Bachmann is the only other candidate recognized by a majority of Republicans (52%).

The accompanying chart provides a visual representation of the recognition and Positivity Intensity Score for each GOP candidate included in the current research. The candidates' positions along the horizontal axis represent their overall name recognition. The candidates' positions on the vertical axis represent their Positive Intensity Scores.

GOP Candidate Images Among Republicans and Republican-Leaning Independents

Huckabee clearly rises above the rest in terms of his Positive Intensity Score, although he is less well known than Palin, whose high recognition puts her at the far right side of the grid. Bachmann stands out for her high Positive Intensity Score despite her relatively lower recognition.

Positive Intensity Scores Help Pinpoint Challenges Candidates Face

There is no clear front- runner for the Republican nomination so far this year, and no major GOP candidate has yet officially declared that he or she is running. Still, a large number of Republican politicians are considered possible contenders for the nomination, in the sense that they are being discussed as such and have yet to officially state that they will not run for the nomination. A number of these Republicans have already visited key primary and caucus states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

One group of these Republicans already enjoys high name recognition, earned on the basis of previous political experience at the national level. The challenge for them -- Palin, Huckabee, Gingrich, Romney, and Paul -- is to translate that name identification into strongly positive reactions from Republican voters. At this juncture, Huckabee is the most liked, followed by Gingrich. Despite Palin's almost universal name ID, she can do no better than third place among the high-recognition group in terms of Positive Intensity Scores among Republicans -- underscoring her challenge should she decide to seek the nomination.

Bachmann enjoys the highest name recognition of the remaining group of Republicans at this point, and her Positive Intensity Score puts her in second place among all potential candidates -- behind only Huckabee. The strong reactions Bachmann generates may not be surprising given her sometimes controversial statements and her strength among certain segments of Republicans. A key question is whether Bachmann's appeal will remain as positive as she becomes better known among Republicans.

The majority of the other candidates tested -- including several who are seriously considering running for their party's nomination -- face a similar challenge. Despite a great deal of media interest in the Republican nomination process over the last several months, the current recognition levels of most of these Republicans show only minimal change since January.

Candidates who ultimately decide to officially join the race will no doubt spend a good deal of this year crisscrossing the country attempting to make themselves better known to the GOP base. Gallup's ongoing assessment of how well they fare in increasing their Positive Intensity Scores may well be an excellent indicator of who ultimately gains the GOP nomination.

Explore the complete data on page 2.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Feb. 28-March 13, 2011, with random samples of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling. Questions asking about the 12 potential candidates measured in this research were rotated among randomly selected samples of Republicans each night; over the 14-day period, each candidate was rated by a minimum of 1,500 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

For the overall ratings of each candidate among Republicans and Republican leaning independents, including recognition scores, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. For the Positive Intensity Score for each candidate, the maximum margin of sampling error varies depending on the size of the group recognizing the individual.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 200 cell phone respondents and 800 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

Republican Candidates Images: Complete Data

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