PRINCETON, NJ -- Although Arizona Sen. John McCain is all but certain to be the Republican nominee for president this year, Republicans remain split on the issue of whether challenger Mike Huckabee should give up, or continue to campaign against McCain in upcoming primaries.
The results show that there is no strong majority sentiment on the part of Republicans that Huckabee should leave the race. Forty-six percent say he should drop out, while 49% say he should continue.
According to media reports and many political observers, one of McCain's biggest challenges at this point is to woo the conservative wing of the Republican Party. It is not surprising, therefore, to find some differences by ideology in views of Huckabee's staying in the race.
Conservative Republicans say Huckabee should stay in the race, by a 54% to 42% margin. Moderate Republicans, on the other hand, say by a 57% to 38% margin that Huckabee should quit.
Gallup Poll Daily election tracking data show that about a quarter of Republicans nationwide continue to support Huckabee. Another 5% support Ron Paul or Alan Keyes, and 9% volunteer the name of another candidate (such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Mitt Romney) or don't have a choice. That currently leaves McCain with the support of about 6 in 10 Republicans nationwide.
In general, McCain's nomination support is lower among conservative Republicans, and higher among moderate Republicans. But the differences are perhaps not as large as might be expected given all of the attention to McCain's presumed problems with the conservative wing of his party.
In the Feb. 21-24 USA Today/Gallup poll, Huckabee receives 27% support among conservative Republicans to McCain's 59%, but only 13% among moderate Republicans vs. McCain's 70%.
In addition to his service as former governor of Arkansas, Huckabee is a Baptist minister and former seminarian, and exit polls in primaries this year have shown that he does best among highly religious voters. That continues to be the case now.
The differences are not huge, but Huckabee's support drops from 31% among Republicans who attend church weekly to only 12% among those who seldom or never attend. McCain's support, on the other hand, moves from 57% among weekly churchgoers to 69% among those who seldom or never attend church.
There are relatively few other variations within subgroups that help distinguish Huckabee's GOP support from that of McCain. Huckabee does slightly better among Republican women than among men. Republican men -- interestingly -- are more likely than Republican women to support Paul and Keyes. Huckabee does particularly well among 18- to 49-year-old women, and in general does better among Republicans under 50 than among those who are 50 and above.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 829 Republicans and Republican leaning independents, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 21-24, 2008. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Margins of error for subgroups will be larger than the margin of error for the entire sample of likely voters.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
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.