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Gallup: Huntsman, Romney, and Paul closest to average American’s political ideology

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

A recent Gallup Poll finds that the average American is slightly right of center ideologically. The implication? If Americans chose their President on the basis of their ideological views and perceptions of the candidates’ views alone, Gallup says that Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul would be in the best position for the 2012 election.

The USA Today/Gallup poll asked Americans to rate their own ideology, as well as the ideology of the eight presidential candidates on a 5-point scale, 1 being very liberal and 5 being very conservative. Gallup found the average American mean score to be 3.3, exactly identical to Jon Huntsman’s rating (excluding the 45% of Americans who don’t have an opinion of him). Former Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul each had a score of 3.5.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s 4.0 and President Barack Obama’s 2.3 rating are among the furthest removed from the mean ideology rating of Americans. Gallup noted that Obama’s mean ideology rating was furthest removed due to the perceived ideology of the President among Republicans. Republicans assigned him a 1.7 on the scale, which places the president in the very liberal category. Independents gave him a 2.5 and Democrats gave him a 2.8. The President’s rating among Democrats has remained consistent enough to suggest that he still has the ideological support of his base.

In the sample of those polled, 42% of Americans describe themselves as very conservative or conservative, 19% as very liberal or liberal, and 37% as moderate.  According to Gallup, the average American self-rated mean is quite close to independents’ self-rated number of 3.2. Furthermore, the average rating that independents assigned to Huntsman (3.3) and Romney (3.4) were closest to independents’ own self-rated ideology.

Interestingly enough, these same two candidates were among the furthest removed from the self-rating of Republicans.  This isn’t the first time that Huntsman, Romney, or Paul have made a curious showing in an ideologically-related Gallup Poll. Recently, they were among the few candidates who had better Positive Intensity Scores than the others in the current Republican field.  As I’ve highlighted in Gallup’s survey on the subject, candidates not evoking strong emotions from partisans tend to have better “Positive Intensity Scores” from the general public.

With many of the Republican candidates fighting amongst themselves at the moment to win their base, these latest Gallup findings present a different focus that could be useful in measuring a candidate's willingness to move beyond partisanship in order to attract a broad electoral appeal.  This latest Gallup Poll was conducted through telephone interviews from December 15-18, 2011 with a random sample of 1,019 U.S. adults. The maximum margin of sampling error for the total sample of national adults was +/- 4 percentage points, with a 95% confidence rate.

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