Perry Opens Wide Lead (in Rasmussen Poll)

Do we have a new frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination?

The Twitterverse is abuzz with the news that Rick Perry has now emerged as the frontrunner. Trouble is, it’s the Rasmussen poll.

GOP Primary: Perry 29%, Romney 18%, Bachmann 13%

Texas Governor Rick Perry, the new face in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has jumped to a double-digit lead over Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann with the other announced candidates trailing even further behind.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary voters, taken Monday night, finds Perry with 29% support. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, earns 18% of the vote, while Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman who won the high-profile Ames Straw Poll in Iowa on Saturday, picks up 13%.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who was a close second to Bachmann on Saturday, has the support of nine percent (9%) of Likely Primary Voters, followed by Georgia businessman Herman Cain at six percent (6%) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with five percent (5%). Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, and ex-Utah Governor Jon Huntsman each get one percent (1%) support, while Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter comes in statistically at zero.

Now, these results are quite plausible. The whole race thus far has been about finding an alternative–any alternative–to Mitt Romney. And, if Perry stops saying really stupid things–a big If, to be sure–he makes as much sense as anyone else.

Still, it’s worth noting that Perry just jumped into the race officially and this is the only poll since that happened.

Further, as has been discussed here and elsewhere ad nauseum, Rasmussen’s reliability is, well, spotty. Nate Silver noted more than a year ago that the firm’s methodology makes it an outlier.

Their polls are in the field for only one night, leaving little or no time for callbacks. They do not call cellphones. They do not appear to use within-household selection procedures. In addition, their polls use an automated script rather than a live interviewer, which tends to be associated with a lower response rate and which might exacerbate these problems. So Rasmussen’s raw data is likely dirtier than most.

But pollsters then have a second line of defense: they can massage their data by weighting it to known demographics, such as age, race, gender, or geographic location. This can work pretty well, but it is not foolproof; it requires some finesse. Moreover, some differences in response rates may not intersect neatly with these broad demographic categories. Pew has found, for instance, that those people who rely primarily or exclusively on cellphones tend to be somewhat more liberal, even after other demographic considerations are accounted for.

The bottom line is this: the sample included in Rasmussen’s polling is increasingly out of balance with that observed by almost all other pollsters. This appears to create a substantial house effect, irrespective of whether Rasmussen subsequently applies a likely voter screen.

Rasmussen defenders are quick to point out that they had great success at calling past voting outcomes. But this was in elections where oversampling of Republicans was a bonus.

We should be cautious in reading too much into any one poll and especially this one.

UPDATE: See also Doug’s post “Rasmussen: Perry 29% Romney 18% Bachmann 13%

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    The Republican establishment is already in the attack mode because they know he can’t win a general election. I talked to my sister, a Houston Republican, who doubts he could win against Obama in Texas – they despise him in the lone star state.

  2. tyndon clusters says:

    The right wingers are right. Obama really is the magic negro.

    To paraphrase the oft quote about Arafat, the GOP will never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    Perry is Mitt’s nightmare….Perry’s hair beats Mitts hair by a hair….Basically Perry is the evangelicals hard on candidate. He can point to economic achievements, is male, and loves Jesus more than he loves his horse.

    The magic negro just might win a second term now that Mitt is out of the way.

    Was there ever an Everett dirksen Nelson Rockefeller et al in the Republican Party or was I hallucinating?

  3. Ben says:

    This man, who oversaw the execution of an almost certainly innocent man, who refused to issue a stay while refusing to even read a report explaining that the forensic science used to convict him was bogus, and who then replaced half of the state forensics board when they wanted to investigate it, is now the Republican front runner. It should be an interesting general election.

  4. Rob Prather says:


    The likelihood of a Republican losing Texas is near zero.

  5. MBunge says:

    I’d say the embrace of Perry is just the final step in the GOP/conservative descent into cognitive dissonance involving the George W. Bush Presidency. The Tea Party and just about everything else in Republican politics for the last 3 years has been about denying the reality that the politicians right wingers voted for and the policies right wingers cheered for are directly responsible for the enormous mess we are in. What better way to complete the irrational no-fault fantasy than by flocking to a candidate that’s practically a clone of the very President they adored but have now written out of history.


  6. KevinA says:

    Rasmussen’s TERRIBLE on issue polling (push polls, IMHO), but why wouldn’t we trust a conservative Republican pollster on the REPUBLICAN race? He would know this audience best, no?

  7. James Joyner says:

    @KevinA: The point isn’t that Rasmussen is a hack outfit intentionally over-sampling Republicans but rather than their entire sampling methodology is flawed. If they’re terribly skewed on age, race, education, geography, and so forth they’re simply not putting out reliable results.

  8. Wayne says:

    If I had to choose “right now”, it would be Perry but that support isn’t steadfast. Romney would be far down the list.

    Re “But this was in elections where oversampling of Republicans was a bonus.“

    Then wouldn’t that mean other polling firms under sampled Republicans in those elections?

    Yes getting the elections right one time is not proof of a reliable pollster. Over several elections is another thing. It seam to reason the polling firm that gets it right most often should be consider the most reliable wither you like their predictions are not. Of course in a liberal fantasy world that is probably not true.

    Their reply would be something like “It doesn’t matter if they got it right. They still oversampled Republicans.” or some other lame excuse.

  9. Wayne says:

    If they are getting the results right more often than other firms then how can they be unreliable unless all others are even more unreliable?

    They are getting the results right more often than other firms so their methodology must not be all that bad.

  10. Rob Prather says:

    I haven’t trusted Rasmussen since the 2000 election. As I recall, they had Bush winning by a large margin. I’m sure we all remember how that turned out.

  11. mike says:

    @Ben: sadly Ben a huge percentage of Americans just don’t care. They won’t bother to look at the evidence. Why let evidence get in the way of a good hunch. The same way a lot of people will vote for Perry b/c he will damn homos, blame the left, and call for some prayers to solve all of the country’s problems w/o actually offering up a plan. He did nothing for Texas but people who support him won’t see through this b/c they are incapable of it.

  12. This Guy says:

    All that methodological error that Silver correctly points out is with regard to National polls and does not necessarily apply to a survey of 1,000 “likely GOP Primary Voters” who actually tend to be whiter, older, and have land line phones.

    That all being said – this is one set of numbers from an automated poll.

    Bush++ may very well be leading but it’s hard to imagine other polls without the extra error concerns won’t have Mitt ahead or tied.

    I also find the 1,000 # dubious – at the rate of contact and incidence of actual GOP Primary voters this would be a sizable undertaking to do correctly in one night.

  13. KevinA says:

    @James Joyner:

    But wouldn’t those biases help in this case, since GOP demographics are, generally, older, whiter, more rural, etc? Sure, in Dem. v. GOP horserace #’s, Rasmussen would be junk, but in GOP-only numbers, I doubt it.

  14. Socrates says:

    Perry is odious.

    As someone pointed out at The New Republic, Perry will be more than eager to run the scorched-earth campaign, against Mr. Obama, that John McCain was not willing to run.

    And, therefore, it will not be surprising to see him in the lead for the nomination. Sad to say.

  15. Murray says:

    Just the publicity effect of his recent announcement. Give him a few weeks to say some really batshit crazy stuff on national TV (he’s got loads of it, he can’t hide it very long).

  16. mantis says:

    There is never a good reason to trust a Rasmussen poll.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    I’m not surprised to see Perry in the lead.

    Romney isn’t loved, he’s tolerated. Romney is a technocrat — in many ways indistinguishable from Obama.

    The GOP will want a candidate who brings some rage, some race-baiting, some gay-bashing, some serious crazy. Romney isn’t that guy and Perry is.

  18. @Ron Beasley: Then how in God’s name has he been elected so many times?

  19. Laurie says:

    I think likeability is a major factor in who wins elections and surprisingly Perry comes across to me as a pretty likeable guy (when I focus more on style rather than content of what he is saying.) While the content of his remarks does not appeal to me, it seems that it would to the GOP tea party base.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    As someone pointed out at The New Republic, Perry will be more than eager to run the scorched-earth campaign, against Mr. Obama, that John McCain was not willing to run.

    And, therefore, it will not be surprising to see him in the lead for the nomination.

    Ahh, but will that help him to win the general election…

  21. avidus says:

    Three things to consider about Rick Perry:

    1) The controversial execution was of a man convicted by a jury of his peers, that was upheld on appeal repeatedly, that the circumstances are not clear cut and Perry allowed the execution to go forward accordingly

    2) If he’s so disliked in Texas why he is the longest serving governor in the states history? Also to note that the three major newspapers despise him so they may not be quite as objective as they would normally be.

    3) Even his enemies say that one key to his success is that he is always underestimated. And note that he has never lost any race entered.

    Given the immediate and visceral reaction to Perry I’d imagine it could work well in his favor.

    Certainly the last president elected from Texas played the good old boy quite well when facing a seemingly brilliant opponent, from all the right schools, beloved by the press, but seen as a tad to distant from the electorate. And that was when the economy was booming.

    It couldn’t possibly be that the reaction we’re seeing is exactly what his team wants – after all it’s only worked for them every other time, hmm?

  22. Ben says:


    1) The controversial execution was of a man convicted by a jury of his peers, that was upheld on appeal repeatedly, that the circumstances are not clear cut and Perry allowed the execution to go forward accordingly

    He was convicted by a jury of his peers largely based on forensic testimony that has now been completely discredited by 9 different independent forensic reviews. There was no other physical evidence. One of these reviews was presented to Perry just before the execution, along with a request for a stay. Perry denied the stay, and admitted that he didn’t even read the review. When the Texas Forensic Review Board wanted to go over all of these reviews and investigate the possibility that Willingham is innocent, Perry replaced 3 of the board members with former prosecutors, who immediately squashed the entire investigation.

    Also, check out the Perry administration’s stance on the Hank Skinner case. Perry is fighting Skinner’s access to DNA testing.

  23. RW Rogers says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Micheal, I think you forgot to add the most important thing: Perry isn’t a Mormon.

    Aside: Intolerance of Mormons isn’t limited to Republicans. See: Kennedy v. Romney: Massachusetts U.S. Senate Election: Official and “unofficial” Democratic Party campaign for good example of what to expect in 2012 Presidential campaign should Romney be GOP nominee.

  24. Lit3Bolt says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I agree. It’s not that Romney is a Mormon. It’s just that he insufficiently pisses off liberals. It’s the same reason that Ron Paul is ignored; he has a few principled positions that liberals agree with, and therefore is not as polarizing a figure.

    Rick Perry is despised by liberals, therefore he will be the GOP spite candidate and will be crowned by the media who want drama to create headlines and narratives.