POLITICO (Washington) - President Barack Obama only leads a generic Republican candidate by 2 percentage points in a potential 2012 match up, according to a new Gallup Poll out Thursday that also shows a continued drift of independents from Democrats.
Obama leads 44 percent to 42 percent, a statistical dead heat, against a nameless Republican, according to the survey of 1,025 adults nationwide.
Not surprisingly, the poll shows that Democrats strongly believe the president should be reelected, while Republicans would like to see one of their own in the White House.
But among independent voters, 45 percent would back a Republican and only 31 percent would favor the president. Twenty-four percent of independents are not sure if they would vote for Obama or a Republican candidate.
The gap among independents is similar to what Democrats have experienced in the recent statewide races in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts where Republicans were able to win by piecing together a coalition that included people who voted for the president. Obama won independent voters by 8 percentage points in 2008, by a spread of 52 percent to 44 percent, according to network exit polls.
“American voters are at this point about equally divided as to whether they would reelect Obama or the Republican candidate as president,” Gallup pollster Jeffrey Jones wrote in his analysis of the survey. Jones cautioned however that, “the current data updates Obama’s reelection prospects, but generally would not hold much predictive value for the actual election outcome more than two years from now.”
While independents seem to be tempted with the idea of supporting a Republican over Obama, there is little agreement on which of the many potential candidates should be the GOP nominee.
Just among the self-identified Republicans and GOP leaning candidates, only two candidates polled in the double digits when respondents were asked to name who they would like to see as the party’s nominee against Obama.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney led the field with 14 percent, followed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at 11 percent.
The GOP’s 2008 nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, came in third with 7 percent, followed by newly minted Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown with 4 percent.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal were all picked by 3 percentage points or less of those surveyed.
The poll was conducted February 1-3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
c Capitol News Company, LLC 2010