PRINCETON, NJ -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the favorite among southern Republicans when they are asked to say who they are most likely to support for the party's 2012 presidential nomination, with a 22% to 13% advantage over Sarah Palin in that region. Mitt Romney has a similar edge, 24% to 12%, over Michele Bachmann in the West. Romney and Rudy Giuliani essentially tie for first in the East, with Romney holding a slight advantage among midwestern Republicans.
These results are based on a July 20-24 Gallup poll that shows Romney (17%) and Perry (15%) in a statistical tie as the preferred nominee among Republicans nationwide. However, Romney has a more significant lead among the more limited set of announced GOP candidates, which excludes Perry, Palin, and Giuliani.
Perry, who initially said he would not run, is in the process of re-considering that decision and may enter the race in the coming weeks. Should he do so, he would likely be a formidable challenger in the South, which includes key early primary states like South Carolina and Florida. According to Gallup's image tracking of potential Republican candidates, Perry is currently much better known in the South than in other regions of the country.
The South is the weakest region for Romney, the presumed front-runner in the race, according to data from the July 20-24 Gallup poll. Romney currently has the support of 12% of southern Republicans compared with 17% or more of Republicans in other regions.
Thus, Perry's entry would be significant from a competitive standpoint, given that his regional strength matches a weakness for Romney. That stands in contrast to Giuliani, for example, whose strongest region is the East, where Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is also strong.
A candidate with a strong southern appeal would also likely alter the nature of the race. Among the limited field of the eight announced candidates Gallup measures, Romney is the clear front-runner overall and the top candidate in each region.
Romney remains the leading contender for the Republican nomination, though clearly not as strong as front-runners in prior GOP contests.
Given Romney's positioning among southern Republicans, a candidate like Perry could pose the most significant threat to him. One key would be whether Perry, as he became better known (currently 56% of Republicans are familiar with him), would expand his appeal in other regions, or if his core support would remain limited to the South. If the latter, Romney may still be able to hold onto his status as the front-runner even if his support in the South drops. If the former, Perry could emerge as the new GOP front-runner should he become an official candidate.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 20-24, 2011, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,088 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 ±4 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 for gender within 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 http://www.gallup.com/.