Majority Of Republicans, Tea Party Supporters Say Gingrich Is An Acceptable Nominee

A new Gallup poll adds yet more detail to Newt Gingrich’s surge into first place in the Republican race for President, revealing that Gingrich is viewed as by far the most acceptable candidate by Republicans and Tea Party supporters:

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.

Here’s how all the candidates measure up:

Perhaps more interesting is how the candidates fare among various GOP subgroups, especially Tea Party supporters:

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

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.

The irony of Tea Party supporters finding Newt Gingrich acceptable in such large numbers cannot be under-stated considering that the last 13 years of his professional and political career have essentially been antithetical to the stated principles of the Tea Party movement. Not that I actually thought the Tea Party movement actually cared about its principles, that is.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. john personna says:

    In other words “is Gingrich not Romney?”

  2. Hey Norm says:

    You would be embarrased to write such a far fetched scenario…yet here we are.
    Something in the tea I suppose.

  3. MBunge says:

    Newt 2012 – He’s acceptable!


  4. michael reynolds says:

    Acceptable? Come, come, he’s more than acceptable. He’s desirable. Wonderful. Perfect. Couldn’t be better.

    Gingrich 2012!

  5. legion says:

    Again – I ask, to any self-described conservatives or Republicans on this site:
    What, if anything, would cause you to consider _not_ voting for the eventual GOP nominee next fall? Is there any person they could pick, any position they could take, that would cause you to simply sit at home, considering Obama to be the lesser of two evils? I’m really curious about this one.

  6. It’s too bad Gallup doesn’t have any tracking on this question, to see if this actually measures something other than current popularity? That is, has Newt always been widely seen as acceptable, or does it just reflect him shooting up in the polls the past week?

  7. @legion:

    I would enthusiastically vote for (in order of preference):

    1. Gary Johnson
    2. Ron Paul
    3. John Huntsman

    I would have to think long and hard about whom to vote for:

    4. Mitt Romney
    5. Newt Gingrich

    I would definitely not vote for and might consider voting for Obama:

    6- Everyone else

    In the later two scenrios, it also depends heavily on who is running third party. If, for example, Gary Johnson ends up being the LP candidate, I would vote for him over Mitt or Newt.

  8. @MBunge:

    Newt 2012 – He’s acceptable!

    Newt’s cromulent candidacy embiggens the Republican party!

  9. Once again it shows that conservatives are only interested in being anti-liberal/Obama than being pro-liberty. Not surprising

  10. Curtis says:

    I think this might be good news for Romney, and not so much for Gingrich.

    Newt brings a bunch of flaws to the table, and the primary voters haven’t really been reminded of them yet. The negative campaign ads basically write themselves, and Iowans are going to be seeing plenty of them in the next four weeks.

    What this poll shows to me is that the tea party folks are not closed to supporting Romney, when push comes to shove. One of the real knocks on him has been that as other candidates rise and fall, nobody converts to his campaign. But if he has the second-highest acceptability marks, that does not imply a low ceiling of support.

    The parallels between Romney and Kerry continue to grow….

  11. MBunge says:

    @Curtis: “The parallels between Romney and Kerry continue to grow”

    What matters, though, is that Republican primary voters are radically different from their Democratic counterparts.


  12. mattb says:

    @Cynic in New York
    Actually, the tea party number in particular show that this is about a dream of a “muscular” conservative party (as MR among others has been writing about for a while). Gingrich’s image — true or false — is that his spine far outweighs his sins.

    The Tea Party was born of sturm und drang created out of a changing American landscape. It isn’t surprising in the least that they continue to gravitate towards the candidate that best performs that image.

  13. Herb says:

    Yet another reminder of why I’m neither a Republican nor a Tea Party supporter……

  14. Ben says:

    Has there ever been a nominee for president that had such huge personal/character/values issues, that were known at the time of his nomination? I’m not a “family values” kind of guy, in fact I generally hate even hearing about the personal lives of politicians. But how could anyone trust a man that casually violated and threw away two wives, all while tut-tutting about the then president having an affair? How is anything this person says worth more than a decaying piece of garbage?

  15. Kylopod says:

    With a little Google search, I found that Gallup appears to have conducted “acceptability” polls only two times before, both from the 2008 election, but neither at a point comparable to the present race: The first is from mid-2006, the second from mid-2007. Here they are:

    Having flirted with entering the race back then, Newt was included in both polls. In the first one, his acceptability rating is 43/51; the second one 49/48. Needless to say, his current standing is a considerable improvement. Mitt’s rating in 2006 was 26/42 (possibly a result of low name recognition), but it improved sharply in the next year, to 53/37, and it has hardly changed at all since then.

    It’s also interesting to look at how other candidates fared. Giuliani had a whopping 71/24 in 2006 and virtually unchanged 74/23 the next year. Obviously, that didn’t keep his candidacy from going down in flames when primary season approached. McCain’s numbers were 57/36 and 57/41–quite comparable to where Romney’s are now.

    The chief Democratic contenders had no such ambiguity: Hillary’s was 71/27 and 82/17; Edwards was 69/27 and 77/21; Obama’s was 78/19 (he wasn’t included in the 2006 results). That supports the general feeling that in both the 2008 and 2012 races, Democratic voters have been a lot more satisfied with their choices than Republicans have been with theirs. (And yes, I’m including Obama 2012 in that equation; despite vocal liberal disenchantment, he remains quite popular with his party, with no sign so far of a primary challenge on the horizon. I imagine if they conducted an acceptability poll on him now, he’d still score very high.)

  16. G.A.Phillips says:

    Has there ever been a nominee for president that had such huge personal/character/values issues, that were known at the time of his nomination?

    lol….no **** sherlock!!!His name is OBAMA!!!!!!

  17. Montanareddog says:


    I agree that his strongpoint amongst the conservative base is his “muscularity”. I agree because I cannot see anything else that he brings that would appeal. He his morally, ethically (and probably financially) corrupt, and as much a weather vane as Romney.

    Just a thought experiment…

    I wonder how far Bachmann’s candidacy would have got with conservative and Tea Party Republicans if she was on her 3rd husband, had dumped the first while he was in hospital for cancer treatment and her excuse for rampant promiscuity was that she loved her country too much.

  18. Hey Norm says:

    @ Montanareddog…
    It worked for McCain.

  19. Hey Norm says:

    G.A.Philips…blithely untethered from reality.

  20. Moosebreath says:

    “Has there ever been a nominee for president that had such huge personal/character/values issues, that were known at the time of his nomination?”

    Grover Cleveland’s and his illegitimate child and paying for a substitute to take his place in the Union Army comes to mind. Other than that, not really.

  21. legion says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Thanks for the insight, Stormy. I really don’t understand the deep loathing a lot of “insider” Republicans seem to have for Romney, but the main concern I have about him (from either party’s POV) is that there is absolutely no telling _what_ his actual policies would be on any major subject if he were elected. I have some guesses, but no confidence at all in their reliability – good, bad, or indifferent.

  22. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Cynic in New York:

    I refer you to cleek’s definition of modern conservatism:

    “Conservatives want the opposite of what liberals want; updated daily.”

  23. @legion:

    Caveat, as the limited support my first three choices are receiving should indiacte, I’m not very in tune with the “generic conservative”, so I’m probably not the best source of insights on the species.