January 13, 2012

Few GOP Voters Would be Swayed by Endorsements

Political endorsements by prominent Republicans would provide little help for GOP candidates in the primaries and might be more of a liability than a benefit in a general election campaign.

Most Republican and Republican-leaning voters say that candidate endorsements by leading GOP figures, including George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and John McCain, would make no difference in their vote, according to a survey conducted Jan. 5-8 among 1,000 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post. The same is true for endorsements by the governor of their state, their local newspaper, and their minister priest or rabbi.

Bush’s endorsement would have a potentially positive impact among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, as would Palin’s. Nearly three-in-ten (28%) say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate Bush supported, 11% would be less likely and 59% say Bush’s backing would make no difference. Nearly a quarter (23%) say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate supported by Palin, 15% say they would be less likely to vote for that candidate; 61% say a Palin endorsement would make no difference.

Yet among all voters, endorsements by Bush and Palin – as well as other prominent Republicans – would be seen more negatively than positively. Roughly a quarter (26%) of all registered voters say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate supported by Bush, 14% say they would be more likely and 58% say it would make no difference. While 28% of all voters would view a Palin endorsement negatively, only 11% would view it positively and 60% say it would not matter.

McCain endorsed Mitt Romney in New Hampshire on Jan. 4, before that state’s primary. Among GOP voters nationally, McCain’s endorsement is a wash – about as many say they would be more likely (19%) as less likely (17%) to vote for a candidate supported by McCain; 63% say McCain’s endorsement would make no difference. Among all voters, the balance of opinion regarding a McCain endorsement is negative: 23% say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate McCain supported, 13% less likely, and 63% say it would make no difference.

Trump, Bachmann, Cain

An endorsement by Donald Trump would draw a mixed reaction among Republican and Republican-leaning voters: 20% say they would be less likely to support a candidate backed by Trump, 13% more likely and 64% say it would make no difference.

Among all voters, however, more than three times as many would view a Trump endorsement negatively than positively (28% vs. 8%). That is little changed from 2007.

Michele Bachmann is the only GOP figure whose endorsement would be viewed more negatively than positively by Republican and Republican-leaning voters: 18% would be less likely to vote for a candidate Bachmann supported, 10% more likely; 70% say Bachmann’s endorsement would make no difference.

Cain’s endorsement, like Trump’s, would get a mixed reaction among Republicans (17% more likely, 15% less likely). Among all voters, 21% would view Cain’s support for a candidate negatively while just 8% would view it positively.

In views of other endorsements, as many voters say they would be more likely as less likely to vote for a candidate supported by their state’s governor (16% each); that also is the case for an endorsement by their local newspaper (13% more, 12% less).

However, about twice as many say they would be more likely than less likely to vote for a candidate supported by their minister, priest or rabbi (19% vs. 9%). Among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, 22% view such an endorsement positively while just 6% view it negatively. Yet among Republican voters, as well as among all voters, most say that support for a candidate by their minister would have no effect on their vote (70% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, 69% of all voters).

About the Survey

The analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted January 5-8, 2012 among a national sample of 1,000 adults 18 years of age or older living in the continental United States (600 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 400 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 184 who had no landline telephone). The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. A combination of landline and cell phone random digit dial samples were used; both samples were provided by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were conducted in English. Respondents in the landline sample were selected by randomly asking for the youngest adult male or female who is now at home. Interviews in the cell sample were conducted with the person who answered the phone, if that person was an adult 18 years of age or older. For detailed information about our survey methodology, see:  http://www.people-press.org/methodology/.

The combined landline and cell phone sample are weighted using an iterative technique that matches gender, age, education, race, Hispanic origin and region to parameters from the March 2011 Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and population density to parameters from the Decennial Census. The sample also is weighted to match current patterns of telephone status, based on extrapolations from the 2011 National Health Interview Survey. The weighting procedure also accounts for the fact that respondents with both landline and cell phones have a greater probability of being included in the combined sample and adjusts for household size within the landline sample. Sampling errors and statistical tests of significance take into account the effect of weighting. The following table shows the sample sizes and the error attributable to sampling that would be expected at the 95% level of confidence for different groups in the survey:

Sample sizes and sampling errors for other subgroups are available upon request.

In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.