PRINCETON, NJ -- Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum currently generate the strongest positive reactions among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide, with Positive Intensity Scores of +12, and lead the other contenders by a significant margin. In fact, Republicans are about equally likely to view Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich strongly positively or strongly negatively, and are more likely to have strongly negative than strongly positive views of Rick Perry and recently withdrawn candidate Jon Huntsman.
The results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted Jan. 12-15, prior to Huntsman's withdrawal on Monday. This is the first update on positive intensity since Republican presidential nomination caucus and primary voting began this month in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Santorum's and Romney's scores are fairly weak for the leading candidates in positive intensity, based on the context provided by Gallup polling on this measure, which began last February. Typically, the highest Positive Intensity Scores for the Republican candidates in a given period have been +20 or greater. And Barack Obama's Positive Intensity Score among Democrats and Democratic leaners is +32 in the Jan. 12-15 polling.
In the prior GOP update, conducted Dec. 12-18, Gingrich led with +14, but he is now down to +1, the greatest decline among the candidates. The intensity scores for Perry, Paul, and Huntsman have also declined in the past month, while those for Romney and Santorum have held steady.
Romney's Positive Intensity Score has been fairly flat over the course of the campaign, averaging +14 and ranging narrowly between +9 and +20.
Santorum's scores, too, have been fairly stable, ranging from +5 to +16, with his current score of +12 his best since July.
Other candidates' scores have experienced more extreme highs and lows, including those of Perry, Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain. Perry, Gingrich, and Bachmann have had scores near zero and in the +20s at various points in the campaign. Cain went as high as +34 but was down to +9 just before he suspended his candidacy.
Notably, Romney's score has not improved since December even though he has become the undisputed leader in national Republican registered voters' preferences for the party's presidential nomination, after wins in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Romney Well-Liked Even With Tepid Intensity Scores
Romney has emerged as the front-runner partly because he has always been among the most liked Republican candidates -- based on his total favorable ratings -- even if he does not generate a lot of strong positive emotion from the party rank-and-file. In the current poll, he and Santorum tie for the lead in total favorable ratings at 68%.
While Romney has never scored that highly in positive intensity and rarely has ranked among the leaders on this measure, he has consistently had among the highest total favorable ratings. In fact, Romney's 72% average total favorable score from February 2011 through January 2012 is tied for the highest of the nine major Republican presidential candidates, and is the highest of the seven who competed in Iowa or New Hampshire.
Cain, whose image suffered after a series of sexual harassment allegations, also averaged 72% total favorable ratings throughout the campaign, but was down to 58% in Gallup's final reading on him in late November.
Throughout the Republican presidential nomination campaign, Romney has neither excited the Republican rank-and-file nor sparked much antipathy from it. As his competitors seemingly took turns trying to be the Romney alternative, seeing their Positive Intensity Scores and share of the Republican nomination vote rise before ultimately fading, Romney held steady.
Now, with voting underway and the crucial South Carolina primary looming, Romney generates as much strong positive emotion among Republicans as any of the remaining contenders -- though still not a high degree of intensity, and much less than President Obama generates from Democrats. If and when Romney clinches the nomination, Republicans may rally around him and come to view him with a bit more strongly positive emotion than they have to date, which could be important to the degree that these strong emotions help motivate supporters to vote on Election Day.
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Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 12-15, 2012, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 860 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
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.
Positive intensity results for the Republican presidential candidates are based on interviews of between 647 and 816 Republicans/Republican-leaning independents familiar with each candidate. For these samples of Republicans, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is between ±4 and ±5 percentage points.
Positive intensity results for President Barack Obama among Democrats are based on interviews with 906 Democrats/Democratic-leaning independents. For this sample, 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 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 2011 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.
The questions reported here were asked of a random half-sample of respondents for four nights on the Gallup Daily tracking survey.
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.