Gallup reported on recent polling data that shows Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich as the top choices among Republicans for their party's 2012 presidential nominee. 20% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide say Romney is their top choice, while 19% say they would most likely support Gingrich; Herman Cain comes in at third with 16%. Among Republicans and Republican-leaners who are currently registered voters, however, Gingrich jumps into first place with 22%, followed closely by Romney (21%) and Cain (16%).
The USA Today/Gallup poll was conducted Nov. 13-17, close to two weeks after a similar Nov. 3-6 poll. In that short time, Gingrich's support has increased from 12% to its current figure of 19% among Republicans nationwide. During this same time, Cain appears to have lost support--perhaps the result of recent allegations of sexual harassment levied against him. While 21% of Republicans supported him in the Nov. 3-6 poll, a smaller 16% favor him today. Rick Perry also continued to slip, from 11% in the last poll to 8% in this most recent one.
While most candidates appear to receive roughly equal support from conservative and moderate/liberal Republicans and Republican-leaners, Gingrich and Cain seem to hang their hat on the more conservative wing of Republican voters. Conservative Republicans and Republican-leaders are most likely to favor Gingrich (23%), followed by Romney (20%) and Cain (18%). But among moderate/liberal Republicans and Republican-leaners, Romney leads the race, checking in with 20% of the votes, while Gingrich and Cain each only garner 12% of the group's vote. According to Gallup, however, "conservatives outnumber moderates and liberals by better than 2-to-1 in the Republican rank-and-file." Gallup writes: "Gingrich and Cain appear to have benefited most from the decline in Perry's support."
Age appears to be a fairly large determinant of respondents' preferences. The GOP race would be a two-man battle between Gingrich (34%) and Romney (28%) if it were up to voters over 65 years of age. In fact, "Gingrich's support is heavily concentrated among Republicans who are at least 50." Part of this, Gallup surmises, may be due to the fact that Gingrich "has been out of public office for more than a decade, and [is] thus a less familiar figure to younger Republicans." Cain and Ron Paul, on the other hand, get most of their support from younger respondents. This would appear to favor Gingrich and Romney, as older Americans are typically more likely to head to the polls than younger Americans.
Gallup concludes: "With the first official nominating contest, the Iowa caucuses, now just six weeks away, there is no clear national front-runner for the Republican nomination...the current contest stands to be the most competitive and perhaps most unpredictable for the Republican nomination since 1972, when the parties shifted the power to choose their presidential nominees away from party leaders at the national convention to the rank-and-file voters in state primaries and caucuses."