President Obama’s hard stance against Iran meets an American public with extraordinarily low opinions of the Persian nation; top GOP candidates trail a “generic Republican” against Obama; Republicans are most enthusiastic about backing Herman Cain in a general election despite his less competitive standing against Obama; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential flirtations may be paying dividends at home.
Here are today’s top polling picks...
Iran widely seen as “enemy” — President Obama vowed Thursday to hold Iran accountable for an alleged attempt to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States. Despite skepticism surrounding the seriousness of the case, American public opinion on Iran is largely settled and extraordinarily negative. Almost half the public said Iran was an “enemy” in a CNN poll (pdf) this spring, and another third called the nation “unfriendly.” Ratings of Iran matched views of North Korea and were markedly worse than any of the nine other nations tested in the poll, including Syria (25 percent “enemy”) and Pakistan (24 percent).
The gap in support between generic and actual Republican candidates is not necessarily a sign that the current GOP candidates are weak. A substantial 36 percent of Americans are not following the 2012 race closely, and while Obama is universally known after almost three years in office, many are unaware of his potential opponents. It also may signal a desire for many to support a candidate that resembles a viable alternative to the president. Additionally, current voting choices appear to be driven mainly by reactions to Obama rather than his potential contenders. Twice as many Perry and Romney supporters in an October Pew Research poll said their vote is primarily “against” Obama rather “for” the specific Republican.
GOP most enthused to back Cain, less so for Bachmann and Paul — Despite Herman Cain’s standing against Obama, 45 percent of GOP primary voters in the latest NBC/WSJ poll say they’d vote for him with enthusiasm if he became the nominee; 39 and 35 percent would back Romney and Perry enthusiastically. Fewer than a quarter of primary voters say they will support Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) or Ron Paul (R-Texas) with enthusiasm, and almost as many say they would not vote for them at all if they won the Republican nomination. By contrast, 10 percent or fewer say they wouldn’t support Cain and Romney. The NBC numbers jibe with Post-ABC polling this year, which has found Herman Cain supporters among the most fervent of the top GOP candidates.
Christie’s national debut earning local accolades? — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie earned his highest approval rating yet — 54 percent according to a Monmouth University poll (pdf) released Wednesday — following weeks of intense speculation over a potential run for president. He began his term in 2010 with a paltry 34 percent rating which improved in 2011 but never topped 50 percent until this month.