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Cain Ties Romney Atop GOP Field

Republicans tilt toward position that charges against Cain are not true

PRINCETON, NJ -- Herman Cain now ties Mitt Romney as the leader for the GOP presidential nomination in USA Today/Gallup polling on Republican preferences conducted Nov. 2-6. Each receives 21% support from Republicans nationwide. Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry follow, with 12% and 11% support, respectively.

Preferences for 2012 Republican Presidential Nomination -- Trend Through November 2011

Gallup's previous measure of Republicans' preferences, conducted Oct. 3-7, also showed Romney and Cain essentially tied, with Romney at 20% support and Cain at 18%. At that point, Perry was in second place with 15%, followed by Ron Paul at 8% and Gingrich at 7%.

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Thus, despite the extensive news coverage of the charges that Cain sexually harassed employees more than 10 years ago when he was head of the National Restaurant Association, his position is slightly improved from a month ago. It is possible that Republicans' support for Cain was higher in the period between the early October and early November polls. Gallup's weekly tracking of Republican candidates' Positive Intensity scores shows that Cain's image surged to record high points in mid- to late October before the sexual harassment charges broke into the news.

Majority of Republicans Believe Charges Against Cain Are Not True

Republicans were asked a series of questions about the allegations against Cain in USA Today/Gallup polling conducted Nov. 3-6, and it appears that Republicans are more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • Fifty-three percent of Republicans are inclined to believe that the charges are not true, with most of these hedging their bets by saying the charges are "probably not true" rather than "definitely not true." A little more than a third (35%) say the charges are probably or definitely true -- again, with most of these in the probable rather than the definite category.
  • Republicans with an opinion are inclined to say Cain has done a good job (45%) rather than a bad job (36%) of handing the charges, although almost one in five don't have an opinion.
  • About half of Republicans are following the news stories about the sexual harassment allegations against Cain very or somewhat closely. This level of attention is lower than the average attention all Americans have paid to news stories Gallup has tracked over the last several decades. The group following the news very or somewhat closely is about as likely to believe the charges against Cain are true as are all Republicans more broadly. At the same time, this group is slightly more likely to be critical of Cain's response, with 47% saying Cain is doing a good job and 48% a bad job of responding.

Romney Stagnant; Gingrich Up

Republicans' latest preferences for their party's nomination highlight Romney's inability to build on his support in recent months. Romney's 21% preference score is now no better in the trial heat poll than it was in May, despite the rise and then fall in Republican support for Perry and Michelle Bachmann, the collapse in support for Gingrich earlier this year, and the latest controversy surrounding Cain.

Meanwhile, Gingrich has seen a modest renaissance of sorts in his positioning. He received as high as 12% support earlier in the year, but fell to as low as 4% of Republicans' preferences, in Gallup's August update. Now, he's back to 12%, and essentially ties Perry for second place behind the two front-runners. Gallup's Positive Intensity Scores, updated each Tuesday, also show that Gingrich's image has been improving.

Implications

Cain has not lost ground from where he was a month ago in this latest round of tracking Republican nomination preferences. The former Godfather's Pizza CEO now precisely ties Romney at the top of the list of Republicans' preferences for their party's nomination, although, at 21% each, neither is in a commanding position. Cain thus appears to have largely survived the storm of news coverage of the sexual harassment charges for the time being. This could change in the days and weeks ahead, particularly given that a fourth accuser on Monday held a news conference to outline her allegations of Cain's behavior when he was head of the National Restaurant Association.

The man anointed by many observers as the GOP front-runner, Romney, has been unable to build up his support in recent months, and remains stuck at the 21% level. By contrast, Perry quickly surged to 31% support among Republicans in September after his entrance into the race, despite being known to just over half of Republicans when he first surfaced as a possible candidate. Perry's initial appeal has faded quickly, however, with his support dropping to 15% in October and to 11% in this month's update.

A number of debates remain on the schedule between now and the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. All of the major candidates will be campaigning intensely until then -- including in-person visits to key early caucus and primary states, as well as paid television and Internet ads. Cain's viability, Romney's ability to generate more support and excitement, Perry's chances of a comeback, and Gingrich's potential comeback in the making are all continuing issues Gallup will monitor.

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Survey Methods

Results for the trial heat question are from a USA Today/Gallup poll and are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup Daily tracking survey Nov. 2-6, 2011, with a random sample of 1,054 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.

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

Results for the specific Herman Cain questions are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup Daily tracking survey Nov. 3-6, 2011, with a random sample of 850 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.

For results based on this sample of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 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.

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

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