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In GOP Field, Only Cain's Image Better Than Earlier This Year

In GOP Field, Only Cain's Image Better Than Earlier This Year

Cain's Positive Intensity Score more than double any other candidate's

PRINCETON, NJ -- Herman Cain is the only candidate whose Positive Intensity Score has increased in comparison to Gallup's initial measurement earlier this year. In fact, each of the eight candidates Gallup tracks began with scores in the double digits, but now only three remain in that range.

Changes in Republican Presidential Candidates' Positive Intensity Scores

The current results are based on Oct. 17-30 Gallup Daily tracking interviews with more than 1,500 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. The candidates' scores have stabilized in recent weeks, with no significant change in any candidate's positive intensity since last week. The stability may not persist, however, as Cain is attracting scrutiny for allegations of sexual harassment while he was president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. All interviews in the most recent field period were conducted before that story broke. Gallup's update on positive intensity next Tuesday will show whether the news is having an effect on Cain's image among Republicans.

Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Perry have seen their images deteriorate the most since earlier this year. Perry and Bachmann saw increases in their positive intensity scores at earlier points in the campaign and ranked among the leaders for a time before fading. Now Bachmann's score of 3 is lower than all other candidates' scores except Huntsman's -2. All of these candidates were less well-known at the time of their initial measurement but have made substantial gains in name recognition since.

Gingrich, who was well-known at the outset of the campaign, experienced a similar decline, dropping 16 percentage points from his initial Positive Intensity Score of 17 in March to 1 in July 18-31 polling. However, the former House speaker's image has recovered of late, and it is now just slightly more negative than Gallup's initial reading of him, and ties Mitt Romney for the second-highest score behind Cain.

In recent weeks, Cain has maintained high Positive Intensity Scores as he has caught up with his rivals in name recognition. Now, 80% of Republicans are familiar with Cain. All other candidates are at or above 80% recognition, except Huntsman and Rick Santorum.

Candidate Images Among Republicans and Republican-Leaning Independents, Oct. 17-30, 2011

Image Declines Evident in Basic Likability as Well as Intensity

The downward trend in candidate images is also evident in the candidates' total favorable ratings -- not taking strength of opinion into account as the Positive Intensity Score does, but more broadly assessing whether Republicans familiar with a candidate have a generally positive or negative view of him or her. Again, Cain is the only candidate whose favorable ratings have risen over the course of the campaign. Most of the rest have seen slight declines, with the largest declines for Huntsman and Santorum.

Changes in Republican Presidential Candidates' Total Favorable Ratings

Several additional points are evident from the total favorable data.

  • Republicans generally like all of the candidates; only Huntsman has a favorable rating below 50% among those familiar with him, and his favorables (47%) still exceed his unfavorables (36%).
  • Though Cain has a wide lead in positive intensity, Romney comes close to him in favorable ratings, 76% to 70%. Thus, Republicans like Cain a lot and many feel strongly about him, but almost as many Republicans like Romney even though he does not generate the same level of enthusiasm as Cain.
  • While Perry's Positive Intensity Scores have plummeted, his total favorable rating is down only slightly. Thus, his losses have come more in regard to intensity than positivity. However, his favorable scores did reach as high as 74% in September.


The campaign has not been kind to most Republican candidates' images this year. Compared with earlier this year, only Cain has seen improvement, and that may not hold as the public evaluates the allegations of harassment against him and his response to them.

Because the Positive Intensity Scores and total favorable ratings reported here are based on Republicans familiar with a candidate, it is possible that the declining scores for some candidates could reflect the broadening of the population who knows him or her. It is possible that those familiar with a candidate in the early stages are more likely to be his or her strongest supporters. As the candidate becomes better known, a broader group who may not be as inclined to like a candidate begins to form opinions of him or her. That could explain the initial rise and subsequent fall in the images of most of the candidates who were less well-known earlier this year, including Bachmann, Perry, Huntsman, and Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out in August.

But even candidates who started out with high profiles, such as Romney, Gingrich, and Paul, have failed to improve upon their initial early readings. That suggests the candidates' performance on the campaign trail also has an effect on how Republicans view them. This is probably most clear in Gingrich's case. His image suffered during the "Tiffanygate" scandal and then the shake-up of his campaign staff in the late spring and early summer, but he has recovered after positive reviews of his performance in debates.

Despite the decline, Republicans generally view the candidates more positively than negatively, and it is possible that once a nominee is decided, the party's base will warm to that candidate.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Oct. 17-30, 2011, with random samples of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Questions asking about the eight candidates measured in this research were rotated among randomly selected samples of Republicans each night; over the 14-day period, each candidate was rated by approximately 1,500 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

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 by 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

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