The GOP Field

Gallup has the latest polling on the GOP field of 2012 prospectives, and Mitt Romney comes out on top with 26 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents.

That makes it a three-way dead heat, when you factor in the previous two rounds of polling--released by Pew June 24 and Public Policy Polling June 18--between Sarah Palin, Romney, and Mike Huckabee.

Here's how each poll breaks down.

Gallup, July 16--candidate "most likely to support for the 2012 Republican nomination," asked of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents:

Mitt Romney:     26%
Sarah Palin:       21%
Mike Huckabee: 19%
Newt Gingrich:   14%
Tim Pawlenty:      3%
Haley Barbour:     2%

It's important to note that these polls measure different things. Pew and PPP measure favorability, not who respondents are likely to support. (PPP also conducts its polls with an automated phone system that asks respondents to press buttons indicating "yes" or "no"; this method has been shown to be accurate in horse-race polling during electinos--i.e., who will you vote for?--but there's also a theory that accuracy diminishes as more questions are asked, since people might have less patience answering questions from a machine. So later questions, such as Romney's favorability, which was asked fifth, would yield less accurate results, according to that theory. Just something to keep in mind.)

Pew, June 24--favorability among Republicans (shown below as "favorable/unfavorable"):

Sarah Palin:      73% / 17%
Mitt Romney:    57% / 18%
Newt Gingrich:  55% / 22%
Michael Steele: 28% / 14%
(Huckabee not included in poll.)

PPP, June 18--favorability among Republicans (shown below as "favorable/unfavorable"):

Sarah Palin:       75% / 20%
Mike Huckabee: 70% / 17%
Newt Gingrich:   66% / 19%
Mitt Romney:     63% / 21%

Favorability isn't necessarily the best measure in elections, as questions of capability and experience factor heavily in the decision-making process. In that regard, Gallup's numbers are the first solid look at the question of who Republican primary voters would actually support at the polls. But these are the most similar numbers we have to compare, at this point, among the GOP field, and they seem to show that Romney, Palin, and Huckabee are neck and neck in the Invisible Primary.