Gallup: public generally opposed to polarizing presidential candidates

A new Gallup poll measuring the positive intensity of Republican presidential candidates, as well as President Obama, has yielded an interesting result.  Candidates who don’t evoke strong emotion from partisans tend to have better ‘Positive Intensity Scores’ from the general public than those candidates who inspire more passionate responses among supporters and opponents alike.

Two of them, Congressman Ron Paul (+6 among Republicans and -8 among Democrats) and former Ambassador Jon Huntsman (0 among Republicans and -4 among Democrats), were found to have better national Positive Intensity Scores than others in the Republican field. Romney (+12 among Republicans and -12 among Democrats) also fared well in this category.

Gallup’s Positive Intensity Scores in this latest survey are from daily tracking conducted Dec. 12-18. They’re based on respondents who say that they have heard of each candidate. Gallup calculates the scores by subtracting the percentages of strongly unfavorable opinions from the percentages of strongly favorable opinions. As a result, positive scores indicate a surplus of strongly favorable views and negative ones indicate a deficit.

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, came out as the most polarizing candidate when assessed by more partisan-leaning voters. Among Republicans/ Republican leaners, he had a score of +14 and a score of -37 among Democrats and Democratic leaners. Ironically, President Barack Obama was just as polarizing as Gingrich in this particular category.  The Commander-in-Chief had a score of  -50 among Republicans/ Republican leaners and +27 among Democrats/Democratic leaners.

Among all Americans, Gingrich and Obama shared a -11 intensity rating score, which was the second worst intensity score next to Texas Governor Rick Perry and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, both of whom were at -14.  Paul, Romney, and Huntsman posted the best overall intensity scores at 0, 0, and -2 respectively.

Gallup noted that, since the current election cycle is the first one in which it’s measured the positive intensity of presidential candidates, there’s not a clear way to determine to what extent strong opinions about the current candidates will be related to success in the primaries and the general election.  What it does seem to hint at, however, is that the public at large is not enthusiastic about political figures who stir up excessive partisan sentiment. This factor might be one reason that, without a strong third candidate in the picture at the moment,  President Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich are essentially tied in the latest hypothetical Gallup matchup.

The results of this latest Gallup poll were based on telephone interviews with random samples of U.S. adults, age 18 and older. The precise number varied according to the percentage of respondents familiar with each person rated.