Romney, Gingrich tied in new CNN poll

Has Newt Gingrich lost momentum in polling for the Republican primary?  Not in the latest CNN poll, although he may not have as much as Mitt Romney.  According to their survey conducted from Friday to Sunday nationally, both GOP fronrunners have 28% of the respondents, leaving the rest of the field trailing badly.  CNN reports this as Gingrich’s lead disappearing, which is true but a bit misleading:

Newt Gingrich’s lead in the race for the GOP presidential nomination has evaporated, according to a new national survey.

A CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday indicates that 28% of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say the former House speaker is their choice for their party’s nominee, with an equal amount supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. In CNN’s previous national poll, conducted last month, Gingrich held a 24%-20% margin over Romney. And Gingrich’s lead over the rest of the field of candidates was even larger in other surveys conducted at the beginning of this month. …

According to the new CNN survey, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is in third place at 14%. That’s a five point rise for Paul since last month’s poll. The survey indicates Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota at 8%, Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 7%, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at 4%, former Utah Gov. and former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at 2%, and nine percent undecided.

Gingrich didn’t lose support between their last mid-November poll and now; in fact, he picked up four points to get to 28%.  Romney gained eight points, though, to score his highest support since June and the start of the boomlet candidates.  Rick Perry lost four points to hit his lowest level in the series at 7% and fifth place.  It appears that his and Herman Cain’s supporters have mainly moved to Gingrich and Romney in the last month, while Paul picked up a small portion of Cain’s support as well.

This could still be changing, too.  Only a little over a third said that they had made up their minds, while 56% said they may yet change theirs.  Among the top five candidates, Rick Perry gets the best rating for possible reconsideration, from 54% of voters, while Romney comes in second with 52%; Gingrich falls below Michele Bachmann (44% and 46%, respectively) while Paul only gets 39% who would consider casting a vote for him in the primary.  Conversely, Paul ranks highest among candidates for voters saying they would not consider their candidacies, 43% to Bachmann’s 42%.  Only 16% of respondents said they would not consider casting a vote for Romney in the primary, with Gingrich at 24%.  Combining up the support plus possible reconsideration, Romney leads with 80%, Gingrich gets 72%, Perry at 61%, Bachmann 54%, and Paul last at 53%.

There are a couple of curious observations in the sample, but it’s unclear as to whether the data indicates polling failures or just incomplete demo data.  CNN’s poll shows “N/A” in demos we’d expect in a primary poll — Democrats, liberals, and Tea Party opponents.  However, we also see them in place of candidate-by-candidate breakdowns in two age demos and several geographic demos.  The two age demos are under 50, but when CNN combines all age demos into categories of under-50 and 50-plus, they do have data for both, which makes it seem as if they just didn’t collate it.  Similarly, the only region with candidate breakdowns is the South, but there are no candidate breakdowns for rural voters.  It seems unlikely that CNN only polled in the South but didn’t get rural voters, but without those numbers, it looks like the poll didn’t have a very reliable sample.

Of course, the nomination doesn’t get won on a national vote.  The polls in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina matter more in the immediate sense than does a national poll series.  However, this tends to negate the idea that Gingrich’s momentum has totally collapsed, as well as the idea that Paul is experiencing a national surge of significance, at least at the moment.