The Washington Post

Herman Cain supporters most fervent in current GOP field

The 2012 GOP primary race has seen candidates rapidly rise and fall over the span of weeks, and the latest to make his move is businessman Herman Cain, who charged from 4 percent to 16 percent in a new Post-ABC poll released Tuesday. Not to be written off as the next flavor of the month, Cain claims his supporters “do not defect.” Is he right? Post-ABC polls shed some light on the issue. Twice as many Cain supporters say they support him ”strongly” as say the same about Mitt Romney and more than any other announced candidate.

Fully 55 percent of Cain’s supporters in combined Post-ABC polls this summer and fall say they support him “strongly,” while 45 percent only back him “somewhat.” By contrast, 34 percent of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s supporters back him “strongly,” as do 24 percent of Romney’s backers. Perhaps surprisingly given his strong support at activist-heavy straw polls, only 18 percent who choose Ron Paul for the GOP nomination support him “strongly.”

Intensity doesn’t always equal consistency. Cain has led Gallup’s measure of positive intensity — a combination of strongly favorable and unfavorable views—throughout the year. Still, he failed to rise consistently into double digits until earning 17 percent in a Fox News and Quinnipiac polls in the past week and, as mentioned, 16 percent in the new Post-ABC poll.

Cain may have more room to grow. Fully 70 percent of Republicans who watched recent debates say the more they hear about Cain, the more they like him. Fewer than four in 10 say the same about Romney (38 percent) and only 29 percent say they like Perry the more they hear about him. (See the Post’s graphic on this question).

Read the full poll results.

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Scott Clement is a survey research analyst for The Washington Post. Scott specializes in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy.


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