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46% of GOP Primary Voters Who Favor Palin Might Back Third-Party Option If She Isn’t Nominated

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nearly half of the Republican Primary voters who support Sarah Palin say they are at least somewhat likely to vote for a third-party candidate if she does not win the GOP presidential nomination.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 46% of Likely Republican Primary Voters who favor Palin say they are at least somewhat likely to vote third-party if she isn’t nominated. That includes 22% who say it is Very Likely.

That puts the GOP in a tight spot since one-third (33%) of all likely primary voters say Palin is the front-runner they least hope wins the party’s presidential nomination.

Among all likely Republican Primary voters, 35% say they are at least somewhat likely to vote for a third-party candidate if their favorite candidate doesn’t win the nomination, with 13% who are Very Likely to do so. Most GOP Primary voters (56%) still say they are unlikely to vote for a third-party candidate if their favorite does not win the nomination, with 27% who say it’s not at all likely. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

While the third-party feeling runs strongest among Palin supporters, 35% of those who support former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee feel that way, including 13% who say they are Very Likely to vote third-party if he doesn’t get the nomination. Among those who back former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, 31% say a third-party vote is likely, but only nine percent (9%) say it’s Very Likely.

Typically, voters who say they will abandon the party if their nominee doesn’t win eventually support the nominee. For example, during the 2008 Democratic Primary season, a fairly sizable number of Hillary Clinton supporters said they wouldn’t support Barack Obama if he won the nomination. But, given a choice between Obama and McCain, those voters came around and supported the Democratic nominee.

In early November when Rasmussen Reports first asked the question, those who said they were at least somewhat likely to vote for a third-party candidate if their choice wasn’t nominated ranged from 24% of Huckabee supporters to 31% of those who favored Palin. 

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The survey of 1,000 Likely GOP Primary Voters was conducted on January 18, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. Likely GOP Primary Voters include both Republicans and unaffiliated voters likely to vote in a GOP Primary. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.


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