The incredibly fluid Republican contest for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination hasn’t changed leaders this week, but there is a new candidate challenging for second place in this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll.
Businessman Herman Cain remains atop the field (the poll was conducted over the weekend that allegations of prior sexual harassment were made against Cain and he denied those charges) with 26% support, nearly the same level as last week’s 28%.
But this week former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is challenging former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for second place. 15% of registered voters who say they will vote in a Republican primary or caucus say they support Gingrich, 17% favor Romney. Texas Governor Rick Perry, the previous party frontrunner, gets only 6% support. Texas Congressman Ron Paul is at 10%.
Cain’s strength continues to come from those GOP voters who identify with the Tea Party. 38% of them support him. Gingrich runs second with them, at 23%. Non-Tea Party Republican voters divide between Romney and Cain (22% support Romney, 18% Cain).
Romney’s Mormon religion may be hurting him with only some Republican voters. Asked whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Mormons, 39% of Republican voters are favorable. 19% are not. But Romney may have a bigger problem with his religion with the general electorate. Only 29% of all registered voters have a favorable view of Mormons.
In fact, both Romney and Cain trail President Barack Obama when it comes to voter preference in November 2012, and by fairly similar margins. Including registered voters who lean one way or the other, Obama leads Romney 47% to 39%. He is ahead of Cain 48% to 40%.
Republican voters are far more attentive to the 2012 campaign than their Democratic counterparts are. Nearly half say they are following the campaign very closely, compared with just 24% of Democratic voters. Tea Partiers are even more attentive — 64% of them are paying very close attention to the campaign.
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