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Gingrich Begins With High Recognition, Low Positive Intensity

Huckabee has strongest positive intensity; Trump, the lowest

PRINCETON, NJ -- Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, expected to announce his presidential candidacy on Wednesday, is well-known among Republicans, but has a below-average -- and declining -- Positive Intensity Score. Mike Huckabee receives the highest Positive Intensity Score among Republicans nationwide who recognize him. Donald Trump, although universally recognized by Republicans, has the lowest Positive Intensity Score of any of the 13 candidates tested in Gallup's April 25-May 8 tracking.

Potential GOP Candidate Images Among Republicans and Republican-Leaning Independents, April 25-May 8 Gallup Daily Tracking

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These findings are based on interviews with more than 1,500 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide. Gallup tracks these candidates' images on a daily basis. Beginning May 10, results will be reported on Gallup.com's new Election 2012 site, with updates each Tuesday.

Gallup asks Republicans whether they recognize each potential candidate and, for each one they recognize, asks 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.

Gingrich is poised to announce his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday with Twitter and Facebook posts, followed by an appearance on Fox News.

Gingrich is well-known among Republicans nationwide, with a current overall recognition score of 84%. On the other hand, he faces an image challenge among Republicans. The former speaker's Positive Intensity Score is 11, below this week's average score of 13 for all potential candidates measured, and down from his high of 19 recorded between March 14 and April 3.

More specifically, 16% of Republicans who recognize Gingrich have a strongly favorable opinion of him, while 5% have a strongly unfavorable opinion (complete data for each candidate are included in the Gallup Election 2012 site).

Businessman and television personality Trump, recipient of much publicity over the last several weeks, has the unenviable distinction of receiving a Positive Intensity Score of 0, the lowest for any of the 13 candidates measured. Overall, 98% of Republicans recognize Trump, but among this group 12% say their opinion of Trump is strongly favorable, while 11% say it is strongly unfavorable. Rounding differences result in his overall net score of 0. Last week, when Trump's numbers were first reported, his Positive Intensity Score was 4, suggesting he lost ground after a week in which he was the butt of jokes that comedian Seth Meyers and President Barack Obama delivered at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner. That same week, Trump's focus on Obama's birthplace was defused by the release of Obama's long-form birth certificate.

Former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee has a Positive Intensity Score of 24, and on this criterion is the strongest candidate in the field. Huckabee's intensity scores have been at the top of the list each week since Gallup began tracking them in late February. Eighty-five percent of Republicans recognize Huckabee. He continues to host a show on Fox News and has made no formal announcements concerning plans to run for his party's presidential nomination.

Two less well-known Republicans, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Georgia businessman Herman Cain, are tied for second place behind Huckabee, each with a Positive Intensity Score of 20. Bachmann has gained steadily in recognition in recent weeks, up to 60% from her starting point of 52% in late February/early March. Cain, one of five less well-known Republicans to appear at last week's presidential debate in South Carolina, is recognized by only 24% of Republicans, but has consistently received relatively positive evaluations from those who do know him.

The other possible GOP candidates included in Gallup tracking vary widely in their name recognition, but none are clear standouts in terms of Positive Intensity.

In addition to Huckabee, Trump, and Gingrich, other possible candidates with recognition scores higher than 80% include Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, both of whom were active in the 2008 presidential election campaign. Palin was the GOP's vice presidential candidate, and Romney a leading contender for his party's nomination. Palin's Positive Intensity Score of 18 puts her in fourth place among the 13 candidates tested, while Romney's score of 13 is right at the average score across the candidates. Neither has officially announced that he or she is running for president, although Romney has established a 2012 exploratory committee and website. Romney's Positive Intensity Score has dropped seven percentage points from his high of 20 earlier this year.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, with a recognition score of 75%, is the best known of the five candidates who appeared in the South Carolina debate on May 5. His Positive Intensity Score of 14 is roughly the same as it has been all year.

The other three Republicans who appeared in the May 5 debate were Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, and Gary Johnson. Former Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty has become better known over the last several months; his name recognition has gone up nine points, from 40% earlier this year to 49% now. Pawlenty's Positive Intensity Score of 16 puts him slightly above average, and he scores higher than the better-known Romney and Gingrich. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum is known by 47% of Republicans, with a Positive Intensity Score of 13. Former New Mexico Gov. Johnson's name recognition has climbed to 19% from 11%, but he remains the least known of the 13 candidates tested. Johnson's Positive Intensity Score (3) is second lowest of the group, after Trump's.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has just returned from his stint as U.S. ambassador to China. One in four Republicans recognizes Huntsman, but his Positive Intensity Score has slipped in the last two weeks, from 14 between April 4 and April 24 to his current 6. It is possible that Huntsman's association with President Obama, who appointed him as ambassador, is hurting him among Republicans. Huntsman has not announced officially that he is running for the GOP nomination, but is actively making speeches and visiting early primary states.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who, along with Paul and Bachmann, is one of only three potential candidates who currently holds a political office, is recognized by 34% of Republicans, little changed since early March. His current Positive Intensity Score of 11 is below average. Daniels is said to be weeks away from an announcement about his presidential intentions.

Bottom Line

The field of candidates running for the GOP presidential nomination is beginning to take a little firmer shape with the pending official announcement of Gingrich's candidacy. Still, most of the best-known and most highly liked potential candidates are so far "unofficial." At this point, as has been the case since Gallup's tracking began earlier this year, the unannounced candidate Huckabee generates the most enthusiasm among Republicans who know him.

Gingrich's declining Positive Intensity Score is not good news for the soon-to-be official candidate. Given the renewed visibility that will accrue as he enters the race on Wednesday, Gingrich in theory has the potential to alter these perceptions.

Trump's presidential intentions remain unclear. Trump has scored well in several trial-heat ballot tests in recent weeks, likely because of his high name recognition. But the current more detailed data on his image among Republicans nationwide certainly suggest he would not have an easy path to the GOP nomination should he decide to jump into the race. He has as many strong detractors as strong supporters, leaving him with the lowest Positive Intensity Score of any candidate measured.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking April 25-May 8, 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. Questions asking about the 13 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 potential 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 candidate.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. 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, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). 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.

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