PRINCETON, NJ -- Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- who was suspended from his paid duties at Fox News Channel on Wednesday given the expectation that he will run for president, and who moved closer to doing so Thursday by setting up a website to collect donations to his possible campaign -- may have benefited from his exposure on Fox News. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 13% of regular Fox News viewers say they are most likely to support Gingrich for the 2012 presidential nomination, compared with 8% of occasional viewers and 6% of non-viewers. Gingrich shows greater gains among regular Fox News viewers than any other potential 2012 Republican candidate, including some other Fox News commentators.
These results are based on a Feb. 18-20 Gallup poll, and include interviews with more than 1,300 Republicans and 550 who report watching Fox News four or five nights a week.
Among all Republicans, over the last six months, Gingrich generally ranks fourth when they are asked to name which of a dozen potential candidates they are most likely to support for president. He trails Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney.
Fox News suspended the contracts of Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum for 60 days because the network believes their expected presidential candidacies create a conflict of interest. Santorum, whose overall support for the GOP nomination has been running in the low single digits, receives no significant increase among regular Fox News viewers. He gets 3% of the vote among this group, as opposed to 2% among Republicans who occasionally or never watch Fox News.
Three other possible Republican candidates remain on the Fox News payroll: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and John Bolton. Fox declined to suspend any of these candidates because it does not believe their candidacies are imminent, but says it would take the same action against them if they appear likely to run.
Huckabee is first or second as Republicans' top choice for the nomination, regardless of their viewership of Fox News. Palin actually does slightly less well among regular Fox News viewers than among those who occasionally or never watch. Bolton, a much less prominent figure than Huckabee or Palin, was not included in the Gallup list, but his name was volunteered by one Republican in the poll.
Although five possible Republican presidential candidates are on the Fox payroll, not all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are heavy viewers of the news channel. About a third watch five nights a week and a third do not watch any nights, with the remainder watching between one and four nights. This means the majority of Republicans have at least some exposure to Fox News programming, on average. For purposes of this analysis, those who watch four or five nights a week (38% of Republicans) are considered "regular viewers."
Given that viewership of the channel is common among Republicans, Fox News provides a unique opportunity for possible Republican candidates to raise their profile and increase their potential support. There have been discussions about how ethical it is to have potential candidates on its payroll, and the network seemed to be sensitive to those concerns by suspending Gingrich and Santorum Wednesday.
Of the five potential candidates with Fox News ties, Gingrich receives the biggest increase in support among the most loyal Fox viewers compared with less frequent viewers. Still, he trails Romney and Huckabee in current 2012 nomination support among regular Fox viewers, and has consistently ranked fourth among all Republicans. As Gallup continues to track Republican nomination preferences in the coming months, it will provide evidence as to the impact Gingrich's removal from Fox airwaves will have on his support.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 18-20, 2011, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,326 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, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
For results based on the total sample of 550 Republicans who are regular Fox News viewers (watch evening shows on the network four or five nights a week) one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. 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, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental 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.