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Monday, January 16, 2012

Huntsman Out, Santorum Endorsed, But Romney in Command

Jon Huntsman's dropping out of the race for the GOP nomination was inevitable. Despite many pundits' assumptions as the election season began that Huntsman was a viable candidate with a good chance of challenging for his party’s nomination, he has generally been at or near the bottom in all Gallup election measures for the entire election season.

Huntsman has generated support from no more than 3% of Republicans in Gallup's national GOP tracking since Dec. 1. His Positive Intensity Scores among Republicans were generally the worst of any candidate measured, often in negative territory, meaning that more Republicans felt strongly unfavorably toward him than felt strongly favorably. Only 21% of Republicans in our recent early January poll said Huntsman would be an acceptable nominee, the lowest of all candidates tested.

Huntsman was clearly seen by Americans as a moderate, and, in fact, his perceived ideology was closer to the the average American's self-perceived ideology than any of the other GOP candidates.  That  moderate image obviously didn't help him among Republicans, however, and it’s likely that his work for Barack Obama as ambassador to China did not help him.

In other words, try as he might, Huntsman was simply not able to convince Republicans nationwide that he was a person they should support for their party’s nomination. And this was not just apathy; as noted, Huntsman generated the most negative responses from Republicans of any candidate we measured.
All eyes are now on the South Carolina primary scheduled for this coming Saturday.  (I say "all eyes," but it is reasonable to hypothesize that the Romney campaign staff's eyes are already focused on the general election.)  There are two debates scheduled this week -- on Fox News and CNN -- that would, in theory, give Palmetto State voters a chance to appraise the candidates and shift their preferences as a result.

Romney is ahead in most South Carolina polls. There was one South Carolina poll released by Reuters/Ipsos over the weekend that showed Romney with a 21-percentage-point lead over his nearest competitor, way out of line with other polling. A close look at Reuter’s release of this poll finds this statement of methodology buried way down in their story: “The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online from January 10-13 with a sample of 995 South Carolina registered voters. It included 398 Republicans and 380 Democrats.” No further methodological details were mentioned in the release, and if they have been made public elsewhere I’m not familiar with them. This description of an “online” poll tells us very little about how this poll was done, and without any details, it is impossible to assess the basis on which those that conducted the poll expect us to judge how representative it is. Generally speaking, online polls are less representative than polls based on statistical sampling procedures intended to give all members of the population an equal or known probability of being selected.

Rick Santorum generated some news over the weekend by virtue of his receiving the endorsement of conservative Christian leaders meeting near beautiful Brenham, Texas, the "Birthplace of Texas".

How much will it matter? Gallup analysis of 2009-2010 data in South Carolina show that 46% of Republicans/leaners in South Carolina attend church weekly.  We don't ask an "evangelical" question on our daily tracking, but church attendance provides a good surrogate. South Carolina is the seventh most religious state in the union, behind Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Gallup analysis of weekly GOP tracking for last week shows that 18% of highly religious Republicans (i.e., those who attend religious services weekly) support Santorum, compared to 14% of all Republicans for the Jan. 9-15 time period. Still, even among weekly church attenders, Romney beats Santorum by 17 percentage points.

These are national data, so we'll have to wait and see what impact, if any, the endorsement has on South Carolina Republicans. It may not matter. History shows the winner in the national polls after New Hampshire on the GOP side goes on to win the nomination. So, even if Romney loses South Carolina, he would remain the favorite to win the nomination.

Romney has climbed to a 23-point lead in the five full days of interviewing after New Hampshire. This is ties him for the highest support of any candidate in any Gallup poll of Republicans during this entire campaign. Romney certainly appears to be consolidating supporting nationally.

1 comments:

Anonymous said...
February 7, 2012 at 12:04 AM  

I see presidential candidate polls everywhere. I do NOT see explanations of how percentages are calculated. How many people participated in the polls? Where do participants reside? How was the poll conducted? This is all critical information needed by viewers in order to increase poll credibility.

I would like to participate in the Gallup polls, but I am unable to find a link allowing me to participate.

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