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Polls Show Low Enthusiasm For Potential GOP Presidential Candidates


First Posted: 04/21/11 02:20 PM ET Updated: 06/21/11 06:12 AM ET

Republican presidential contenders face a lack of visibility or enthusiasm among their base nationwide, according to two new polls released this week.

On Wednesday, a Pew Research Center survey found most respondents, even a plurality of Republicans, unable to name a GOP hopeful they were most familiar with recently.

The open-ended question, part of Pew's weekly News Interest Index, found a majority of those polled (53 percent) said they didn't know which potential candidate they had heard most about. A smaller -- but still quite significant -- portion of Republicans (38 percent) responded similarly. While perhaps different from not being able to identify any of the GOP contenders by name (some respondents may simply not have remembered seeing media reports recently), the poll's results reveal a particular lack of visibility among the members of the crop.

The second poll, released Thursday by CBS News and the New York Times, found Republicans nationwide particularly unenthused by their options. When asked to name which potential candidate they liked best, 56 percent of Republican respondents chose "no candidate."

Conducted April 15-20 among 1,224 adults nationwide, the CBS News/New York Times poll had a margin of error of three percentage points. Republicans represented a smaller sample: 543 respondents with a margin of error of four percentage points. The Pew poll, administered to 1,015 adults from April 14-17, had a margin of error of four percentage points; the smaller sample of 270 Republicans had a 7.5-point margin of error.

When examined together, the polls reveal a political environment that lacks a true frontrunner, possibly leaving an opening for new candidates or adding additional importance to the first primary and caucus states.

Even if early states such at Iowa and New Hampshire provide a jumping off point for potential candidates to take the lead, as it stands, favored contenders remain unclear. Polls released this week surveying Iowa Republicans by Public Policy Polling and American Research Group found Mike Huckabee to be the top contender, but neither showed the former Arkansas governor with an insurmountably strong lead. Mitt Romney is typically New Hampshire's preferred option, including among respondents from a PPP survey released earlier this month, but given his many years as a New England public official, a Granite State victory may not mean as much.

Significantly, Pew poll respondents deemed Donald Trump the hopeful they had heard the most about recently; 26 percent of respondents overall and 39 percent of Republicans chose the real estate mogul. The next-closest contender, Mitt Romney, trailed in comparison: nine percent of overall respondents 12 percent of Republicans named the former Massachusetts governor most ubiquitous.

Yet despite Trump's visibility, the CBS News/New York Times poll revealed he has failed to make inroads within his base. Only 35 percent of Republicans said they viewed Trump favorably in the new survey, while almost as many, 32 percent, said the opposite. Trump's polled even more poorly Tea Partiers, who he appears to be courting -- 32 percent of that group said they had a favorable opinion, and 33 percent chose "unfavorable."

In addition, 57 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Tea Partiers in the CBS/Times poll said they did not consider Trump to be a serious candidate. 72 percent of overall registered voters agreed. Furthermore, only seven percent of Republicans in the Pew survey chose Trump as a candidate they felt enthusiastic about.

Republicans surveyed did appear open to Trump's views on President Obama's birth certificate, however. Among GOP respondents overall, 33 percent said they thought Obama was born in the U.S., and 45 percent said that they thought he was not.

This week's polls reveal a Republican primary race that, so far, has failed to capture the public's attention. Although Trump's candidacy has garnered the most attention, his rating among members of his base shows that his candidacy will likely be nothing more than a sideshow. A real frontrunner still has yet to emerge.

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