Evangelicals Favor Huckabee as 2012 GOP Presidential Nominee

Evangelical Christians prefer former Arkansas-governor-turned-Fox-News-talk-show-host Mike Huckabee as the Republican presidential candidate, according to a Barna report released this week.

Huckabee garnered 88 percent favorable rating and 11 percent unfavorable response from evangelicals that participated in the Barna survey that tracks who Christians prefer as the 2012 Republican nominee.

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin came in second among evangelicals, with 79 percent favorable and 21 percent unfavorable ratings. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (57 percent favorable, 37 percent unfavorable), former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (56 percent , 29 percent), and Texas Congressman Ron Paul (51 percent, 26 percent), rounded out the top five picks among evangelicals.

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Notably, the favorability of potential candidates among evangelicals differs from their name recognition and reception among Americans in general.

Palin has the highest level of name recognition (97 percent), followed by Gingrich (86 percent), Huckabee (81 percent), Romney (80 percent), and Paul (68 percent).

But despite being the most recognizable among possible Republican contenders, Palin also has a highly negative image among Americans overall. Only 36 percent of Americans view Palin favorably, compared to 61 percent that have an unfavorable view of her.

In contrast, 44 percent of American adults have a positive view of Huckabee and only 36 percent have an unfavorable perception of him. Romney's figures among the general public are close to Huckabee's (40 percent, 39 percent). Gingrich has 32 percent favorable rating compared to 55 percent unfavorable.

Despite having a negative image among the general public, however, Palin was highly favored among registered Republicans, with 69 percent favorable to 30 percent unfavorable ratings. Huckabee (68 percent to 23 percent) and Romney (69 percent to 22 percent) have nearly the same favorable versus unfavorable ratings.

Gingrich (62 percent, 32 percent) and Paul (52 percent, 27 percent) have lower favorable ratings among Republican voters.

Among non-Christians, President Obama had the highest favorability rating (61 percent positive, 38 percent negative).

But all the major potential Republican candidates have low positive ratings among non-Christians: Romney (35 percent, 54 percent), Paul (31 percent, 53 percent), Huckabee (30 percent, 59 percent), Gingrich (20 percent, 67 percent), and Palin (17 percent, 80 percent).

There is no clear frontrunner yet for Republican nominees for the 2012 presidential election, according to the Barna survey. Only Palin (13 percent), Romney (13 percent), and Huckabee (12 percent) have double-digit favorability rating among survey respondents.

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted in the OmniPoll on a random sample of 1,021 American adults across the United States. The interviews took place between Feb. 10 to Feb. 18, 2011.

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