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One of the interesting outcomes of this year’s Republican election process has been the fate of Jon Huntsman. Huntsman, as you may know, is on paper a potentially appealing presidential candidate. He is the former governor of Utah, the former ambassador to China (albeit an ambassador appointed by a Democratic president), speaks fluent Chinese, served in the administration of both Presidents Bush, has at least some business experience as part of his family’s Huntsman Corporation, and has been actively campaigning for the nomination all year. At one point he was considered by at least to some observers to have a real shot at the nomination.
Yet his campaign has gone nowhere.
In fact, Huntsman has the distinction of earning the lowest Positive Intensity Score of any GOP candidate we measure. In last week’s update, Huntsman’s Positive Intensity Score is -2.
Let’s look at where this comes from. Just 50% of Republicans nationally recognise Huntsman. This is the lowest recognition value of any of the eight candidates we are tracking. The next closest is former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum at 57% recognition. Huntsman’s recognition was at 21% when we first measured him in January. Which means that he has increased his recognition by 29 percentage points since then. We can compare Huntsman to his fellow Republican, Herman Cain, who also had a 21% recognition among Republicans when we first measured him. Cain is now at 78% recognition, a jump of 57 points. Huntsman and Cain began at the same point. Cain caught on with Republicans; Huntsman did not.
Among those Republicans who know Huntsman, 46% have a generally favourable opinion of him, while 36% have a generally unfavorable opinion (the rest don’t have an opinion, even though they said they recognised him). These are the lowest favourable and unfavorable percentages of any candidate we are measuring. Additionally, Huntsman’s favourable to unfavorable ratio is 1.28. The next closest ratio to Huntsman’s is Ron Paul’s, whose ratio is 1.59 (based on 54% of Republicans who recognise Paul who have a favourable opinion and 34% who have an unfavorable opinion).
In terms of strong opinions, Huntsman also strikes out. Just 4% of those who recognise Huntsman are willing to say that they have a strongly favourable opinion of him, while 6% say they have a strongly unfavorable opinion. The critical measure here is that 4% number. This is by far the weakest “strongly favourable” percentage we have measured. The next lowest is a group of four Republicans — Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum — who have 11% strongly favourable ratings. At the top of the list is Herman Cain, who has a 33% strongly favourable rating.
Basically, Huntsman has not been able to penetrate the consciousness of rank-and-file Republicans around the country. Even after participating in most debates this year, he is unknown to half of all Republicans. And among those who do know him, he has a very dull image, with over a third saying they view him unfavorably, and with very few willing to say their opinion is strongly favourable.
By contrast this year, we’ve seen Bachmann, Perry, and Cain all “catch on” with Republicans at one point or another. The intense interest in the first two of these, of course, has faded. Cain is still standing. But Huntsman has not caught on, even briefly.
Part of this is, no doubt, because Huntsman does not appeal to the very conservative part of his party — which, at this juncture, has the enthusiasm and whose preferences appear to be driving to some degree the standings and images of the candidates. Huntsman’s moderate positioning is apparently out of sync with the enthusiasm within the GOP, exemplified by his agreement to serve Democratic President Barack Obama as ambassador to China.
Huntsman is still active on the campaign trail, boycotting the recent Nevada debate because of that state’s erstwhile attempt to push their caucuses up early in the year, appearing on the Stephen Colbert Show, and issuing tweets and position papers.
The most recent New York Times/CBS News poll has Huntsman receiving 1% of the Republican vote.
As a sidenote, I might mention, one would have been hard-pressed to find Huntsman’s standing from reading the main Times’ report on their survey. The article only briefly mentions the data from the poll relating to the Republican horse race, alluding to the fact that Cain is in a “statistical dead heat” with Mitt Romney (Cain has 25% of the Republican vote, Romney 21% — although these numbers are not mentioned in the article), and that Perry has fallen to 6% support. By contrast, CBS News, the partner with The New York Times in the poll, headlined their news story thusly “Herman Cain tops Mitt Romney in latest CBS/NYT poll.” Different editors, different emphases.This post originally appeared on Gallup Polling Matters.
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