Romney Less Polarizing Than Gingrich or Obama

by Lydia Saad

Gingrich earns much higher negatives from Democrats than does Romney

PRINCETON, NJ -- With Gallup Positive Intensity Scores of +14 from Republicans and -37 from Democrats, Newt Gingrich sparks the strongest partisan reactions of any of the seven major Republican candidates remaining in the GOP presidential field. Mitt Romney generates positive intensity from Republicans that is nearly as high as Gingrich's, +12, but has much higher positive intensity from Democrats than Gingrich does: -12. Partisan views of both leading Republican contenders, however, are mild in comparison with views of President Barack Obama. His positive intensity ratings are +27 from Democrats and a striking -50 from Republicans.

Positive Intensity Ratings Among Republicans and Democrats, Mid-December 2011

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These Gallup Positive Intensity Scores, from Gallup Daily tracking conducted Dec. 12-18, are based on respondents who say they have heard of each person. The scores are calculated by subtracting the percentage with a strongly unfavorable opinion of each from the percentage with a strongly favorable opinion. Thus, positive scores indicate a surplus of strongly favorable views, and negative scores indicate a deficit.

Gallup has tracked positive intensity toward the GOP candidates among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents since March. This survey, though, is the first to measure Democrats' and Democratic-leaning independents' intensity toward the candidates. It is also the first to measure either party's intensity toward Obama.

The GOP candidates' Positive Intensity Scores from Republicans may relate to how well the candidates perform in the early primaries coming up in January. Indeed, the rank order is largely similar to the candidates' standing in Gallup's Republican trial heat over the same period. Only Rick Santorum's third-place positive intensity ranking is sharply out of line with his low standing in Republican preferences for the nomination. While Santorum is viewed relatively well by Republicans familiar with him, fewer than 6 in 10 (58%) are currently familiar with him. So he remains one of the least well-recognized Republicans in the race, thus contributing to his low standing in the trial heats.

Compared with Gallup's prior measurement of the GOP candidates' positive intensity among Republicans in late November, Gingrich's score is down slightly, while Santorum's is up slightly. Romney's score is back in double digits at +12 after dipping to +9, his lowest of 2011, in the prior update.

Paul and Romney Lead in Positive Intensity Among General Public

The new poll also provides Gallup's first look at positive intensity toward the Republican candidates, as well as toward Obama, among all Americans. Notably, none of the eight generates more strongly positive than strongly negative views from the public at large.

In general, the strongly positive ratings of each candidate by his or her own party's supporters are matched or exceeded by strongly negative ratings from the other party's supporters. For the GOP candidates, Positive Intensity Scores among all Americans range from 0 for Romney and Ron Paul to -14 for Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. Gingrich and Obama are tied at -11.

Positive Intensity Ratings Among National Adults, Mid-December 2011

Candidates who do not evoke much strong emotion from partisans, such as Paul (+6 among Republicans and -8 among Democrats), Jon Huntsman (0 among Republicans and -4 among Democrats), and Romney (+12 among Republicans and -12 among Democrats), tend to have better national Positive Intensity Scores than those who inspire greater passion among supporters and especially opponents, such as Gingrich, Obama, Perry, and Bachmann. However, given that this is the first election cycle in which Gallup has measured positive intensity of presidential candidates, it is not clear to what extent strong opinions about candidates are related to success in primaries or general elections.

Bottom Line

Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum are the only Republicans in the current field of seven who generate much positive intensity from Republicans nationwide. At the same time, the three generate very different levels of positive intensity from Democrats, with Gingrich garnering the most negative ratings and Romney the least.

By contrast, President Obama sparks strongly favorable reviews from Democrats and even more strongly unfavorable reviews from Republicans. The net result is that Romney emerges with one of the better national positive intensity ratings of all the Republican candidates, while Gingrich and Obama are tied with two of the lowest.

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Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Dec. 12-18, 2011, with random samples of U.S. adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia -- with the precise number varying according to the percentage of respondents familiar with each person rated.

Positive intensity results for President Barack Obama among all Americans are based on interviews with 3,025 national adults, and have an associated maximum margin of sampling error of ±2 percentage points at the 95% confidence interval. Positive intensity results for Obama by party ID are based on 1,348 Republicans/Republican-leaning independents and 1,287 Democrats/Democratic-leaning independents. For samples of this size, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Positive intensity results for the Republican presidential candidates among all Americans are based on interviews with between 1,195 and 1,972 national adults, and have an associated maximum margin of sampling error of ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence interval. Positive intensity results for the Republican candidates by party ID are based on between 607 and 914 Republicans/Republican-leaning independents and between 493 and 840 Democrats/Democratic-leaning independents. For samples of this size, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is between ±4 and ±5 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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