Herman Cain is leading the Republican presidential primary race, according to a poll released Tuesday. Why the sudden surge? Cain's name recognition has skyrocketed in recent weeks, and he's been able to maintain an exceptionally positive image among those Republicans who've heard of him, another survey suggests.
Cain has a 25 percent to 21 percent lead over former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, according to a CBS News and The New York Times poll released Tuesday that focuses on likely Republican votes.
That lead is just within the survey's 4 percentage point margin of error, but many other polls conducted this month have also shown Cain in the lead. Cain also leads Romney 30.9 percent to 24.4 percent in HuffPost Pollster's trend estimate for the race, which complies data from all publicly available Republican-preference polls.
In recent polls restricted to likely Republican primary voters and those conducted with automated methods, which tend to skew towards the most engaged Republicans, Cain has been leading the pack. But in many traditional live interviewer polls of all Republican adults, Romney has received more support.
Gallup’s latest weekly survey, also released Tuesday, suggests one source of Cain's rise. Their tracking poll of recognition and favorability of the 2012 Republican field found that among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, Cain's name recognition has surged over the past month. Seventy-eight percent of Republicans and Republican leaning independents in Gallup's polling now recognize Cain's name, up from 50 percent a month ago and 69 percent only a week ago. (Each week's release combines data from the previous two weeks, so responses for each release overlap with the subsequent and preceding releases.)
Cain also continues to hold the top position on Gallup's "Positive Intensity Score," a measure of the intensity of favorability for a candidate. Gallup calculates the score by focusing on Republicans who recognize a candidate, and then subtracting the percent of those people who have a strongly favorable opinion of a candidate from those who have a strongly unfavorable opinion of a candidate. Cain scored 30 percent on that measure, slightly down from 34 percent last week. But Cain's score is still more than double that of his nearest rival, Romney, who scored 13 percent, Gallup noted in its release.
Cain has performed particularly well on Gallup's Positive Intensity measure during the primary, having led for the past five weeks and in 20 of the last 23 releases. On the three he didn't lead over that time, all from August and September, Cain came in second to Rick Perry, who has since nosedived to only 5 percent on the measure.
Cain also leads the pack in terms of the overall percentage of those who recognize him and have a favorable opinion. According to Gallup's polling, 74 percent of Republicans who have heard of Cain have a favorable impression of him -- 8 percentage points more than his next most popular rival, Romney, at 66 percent.
The new CBS News/New York Times poll was conducted October 19-24 among 455 voters who said they plan to vote in the Republican primary. Gallup's latest name recognition and Positive Intensity Score poll was conducted during Gallup's daily tracking poll from Oct. 10-23 among approximately 1,500 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Gallup did not report the margin of sampling error for the poll.
Cain's surge is unsurprising given a recent Pew study, which found that news coverage of Cain has been largely positive. A subsequent HuffPost analysis of Pew's data showed the amount of coverage of Cain's campaign has also increased.
Cain also led in a recent Pew Research Center survey asking respondents which Republican candidate they had heard most about, 23 percent to 18 percent over Romney among the general public and 32 percent to 20 percent among Republicans and Republican leaners.
As rank and file Republicans learn more about Cain or news coverage of his campaign turns more negative, Cain could still experience a fall in the polls like other GOP contenders have. Cain's Positive Intensity Score has remained relatively stable in spite of an expansion in those who know about him beyond his base, but Perry's also initially remained high as more Republicans became aware of him. However, the fact that Cain's score has been consistently high through more than 20 weeks of Gallup's polling suggests a long-lasting enthusiasm for Cain that could make him more difficult for Romney to shake.