PRINCETON, NJ -- Newt Gingrich (62%) and Mitt Romney (54%) are the only two candidates Republicans say would be acceptable presidential nominees from their party, emphasizing the degree to which the GOP race has narrowed down to these two men at this juncture. A majority of Republicans say each of the other six candidates measured would not be acceptable nominees.
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in Gallup's Nov. 28-Dec. 1 survey were asked to rate the acceptability of eight active GOP candidates. The "acceptable" responses range from Gingrich's 62% to 27% for Rick Santorum.
This is the first time Gallup has asked this question in reference to the 2012 election. More than half of Republicans nationwide now see Rick Perry and Herman Cain -- both of whom previously led or tied for the lead in Gallup's measure of positive intensity and in Gallup's trial-heat ballots -- as unacceptable nominees. These data were collected prior to Cain's Saturday announcement that he was suspending his campaign for the GOP nomination.
Majority of Tea Party Supporters Find Both Gingrich and Romney Acceptable
Tea Party supporters -- about 42% of Republicans in this sample -- are at least slightly more likely to find six of the eight candidates acceptable compared with those who are not Tea Party supporters. Tea Party supporters are less positive than nonsupporters about Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman.
Eighty-two percent of Tea Party supporters would find Gingrich acceptable as a nominee, making him by far their top choice on this measure. Importantly, Tea Party supporters are also more positive about Romney than are nonsupporters, putting him in second place behind Gingrich, with a 58% acceptable score. Michele Bachmann (52%) is the third candidate whom a majority of Tea Party supporters would find acceptable.
Conservative Republicans, about 70% of Republicans in this sample, don't differ much from all Republicans in their views of the candidates' acceptability. Moderate and liberal Republicans, however, are substantially less likely to say that Gingrich is an acceptable nominee than are conservatives, yielding a situation in which about equal percentages of moderate and liberal Republicans find Romney (51%) and Gingrich (48%) acceptable.
Moderate and liberal Republicans are more likely than conservatives to say Paul and Huntsman would be acceptable nominees -- but in both instances, support for the candidates is still well below the majority level.
Older Republicans Positive About Gingrich
Republicans 55 and older are more likely than younger Republicans to say Gingrich and Romney would be acceptable nominees. Among the older group, 73% say Gingrich would be acceptable, and 62% say Romney would be acceptable. Older Republicans are slightly more positive than younger Republicans about Bachmann, but are less positive than the younger group about Cain, Paul, and Huntsman.
This echoes the finding from Gallup's recent nomination preference question, which showed Gingrich demonstrating great appeal to older Republicans.
As the race for the GOP nomination enters the final month before actual voting begins, Republicans nationwide appear to have narrowed their field of acceptable candidates down to two -- former Speaker Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Romney. More Republicans see Gingrich than see Romney as an acceptable nominee, particularly among Tea Party supporters and older Republicans -- although a majority of both of these groups say Romney is also acceptable.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 28-Dec. 1, 2011, with a random sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
For results based on the total sample of 464 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 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 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 www.gallup.com.