Perry Zooms to Front of Pack for 2012 GOP Nomination

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Leads Romney by 29% to 17%

PRINCETON, NJ -- Shortly after announcing his official candidacy, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has emerged as rank-and-file Republicans' current favorite for their party's 2012 presidential nomination. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide say they are most likely to support Perry, with Mitt Romney next, at 17%.

Preferences for 2012 Republican Presidential Nomination, Trend, May-August 2011

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These results are based on an Aug. 17-21 Gallup poll, the first conducted after several important events in the Republican nomination campaign, including the second candidate debate, the Iowa Straw Poll, and Perry's official entry into the race after months of speculation.

Romney and Perry essentially tied for the lead in late July, based on re-computed preferences that include the current field of announced candidates. Gallup's official July report, based on the announced field at the time and thus excluding Perry, showed Romney with a 27% to 18% lead over Michele Bachmann. Romney enjoyed an even wider, 17-percentage-point lead in June over Herman Cain among the field of announced candidates (Gallup did not include Perry among the nominee choices before July).

Perry's official announcement may have overshadowed the Aug. 13 Iowa Straw Poll, which Bachmann won narrowly over Ron Paul. Neither candidate appears to have gotten a big boost from the straw poll results; Paul's support was up slightly from July and Bachmann's down slightly.

Perry is a strong contender among key Republican subgroups. Older Republicans and those living in the South show especially strong support for him, at or near 40%. Conservative Republicans strongly favor Perry over Romney, but liberal and moderate Republicans support the two about equally. Perry's support is also above average among religious Republicans.

Preferences for 2012 Republican Nomination, by Subgroup, August 2011

In addition to liberals and moderates, Perry is also relatively weak among young Republicans and those residing in the East. Paul continues to demonstrate stronger appeal to young Republicans, and limited appeal to those aged 50 and older.

Palin, Giuliani Also Trail Perry

While the eight announced candidates continue to campaign in key early primary and caucus states, Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani are two prominent Republican politicians who have indicated they are still contemplating getting into the race. Palin and Giuliani each receive about 10% of the vote when included in the nomination preference question, with Perry still holding a significant lead over Romney, 25% to 14%, on this measure.

Preferences for 2012 Republican Presidential Nomination, Including Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani, July vs. August 2011

Last month, Romney and Perry essentially tied in preferences among the full list of candidates and potential candidates.

Implications

Perry's official entry has shaken up the Republican race, making him the new leader for the party's nomination. Gallup also finds Perry generating strong positive intensity among Republicans familiar with him, suggesting he has a strong initial base with potential to grow, given his below-average recognition.

Still, he, like Romney before him, rates as a weaker front-runner than those in prior GOP nomination contests. Perry will attempt to avoid the same fates as late-entering candidates in the last two nomination contests -- Fred Thompson in the 2008 Republican field and Wesley Clark in the 2004 Democratic field. Both created a buzz surrounding their potential candidacies, and ranked among the national leaders upon entering the race. However, both fared poorly in early primaries and caucuses and soon after ended their candidacies.

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Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 17-21, 2011, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,040 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of Republicans, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

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 by 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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

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

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