Poll: With no GOP frontrunner, Obama favored to win in 2012

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Results from a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday show that so far, President Obama has the edge over his GOP counterparts in the next presidential election.

Nearly half, or 47 percent, of registered voters said they want Obama to be re-elected, while 37 percent said they wanted a Republican candidate to win in 2012.

As a comparison, during George W. Bush’s first term, in April 2003, 48 percent of registered voters said they wanted him to be re-elected in 2004, while 34 percent said they would prefer to see a Democrat win, according to Pew.

This most recent election poll was conducted March 8-14 among 1,524 adults.

“The race for the Republican nomination has gotten off to a much slower start than the presidential race four years ago,” notes a Pew statement overviewing the data. “The Pew Research Center’s news interest surveys have found that the campaign is drawing far less coverage and public interest than the previous presidential campaign at this stage. During the 2008 campaign, there were nomination races in both parties.”

The survey found that no frontrunner stands out among potential GOP candidates. Asking Republican and Republican-leaning registered who their first choice would be of the current potential runners, researchers found:

  • 21 percent wanted Mitt Romney
  • 20 percent Sarah Palin
  • 11 percent Newt Gingrich
  • 8 percent Ron Paul
  • 3 percent Tim Pawlenty
  • 2 percent Mitch Daniels
  • 2 percent Rick Santorum
  • 2 percent Haley Barbour
  • 2 percent Chris Christie
  • 1 percent “other”
  • 5 percent “none”
  • 10 percent “don’t know”

Analyzing the data, The Washington Post says:

Among independent voters, perhaps the most closely watched swing group, the race is relatively narrow at 40 for Obama to 34 percent for a generic Republican. More than a quarter of independents, 26 percent, are undecided. The six-point margin for Obama among independents is similar to his performance against John McCain in the 2008 election, in which he won independents by 52 to 44 percent, according to exit polls.

In April 2003 independents went 40 to 34 percent for Bush over a generic Democrat, exactly matching the vote choice for Obama now. But in 1995, independents split 23 to 16 percent for Clinton and a generic Republican with a 37 percent plurality preferring an unnamed independent candidate.

As we’ve seen in other polls, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee rise to top of a crowded Republican primary field winning 21 and 20 percent of the vote among Republican and GOP-leaning independent voters. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and former House speaker Newt Gingrich comprise the second tier at 13 and 11 percent support, followed by a host of other candidates in the single digits.

Romney and Huckabee’s bases of support are distinct in a few areas. Romney appeals more clearly to upper income and older Republicans while Huckabee appeals to white evangelical Protestants and Republicans who attend church at least weekly.

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