Poll shows Perry, Cain neck and neck in Texas

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If the 2012 Republican primary were held today, Herman Cain and Gov. Rick Perry would be statistically tied among Republican primary voters in the state of Texas, according to an online survey conducted by the University and the
Texas Tribune.

The survey ran from Oct. 19 to Oct. 26 and included 800 respondents from around the state. The results were part of a much larger survey of political attitudes using a popular online system called YouGov Polimetrix, said government professor James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, who co-runs the polls.

According to the poll, Cain led with 27 percent, Perry followed with 26 percent, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul held 12 percent, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney held 9 percent and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich followed with 8 percent. Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum each received 2 percent or less, while 11 percent indicated they “don’t know.” The margin of error in the poll was listed at 3.46 percent, while for voters listed as Republicans the margin of error was 4.93 percent.

While Perry remains a front-runner, the fact that he is running into such stiff competition in his own state has intrigued pollsters, said Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Texas Tribune.

“It looks like the Texas governor is in a dead heat in his own state,” Ramsey said. “Cain has risen from his performance in polls and debates through October and voters have clearly taken a notice in him. The wax and wane in the popularity of Republican candidates has created a current lineup that’s very interesting.”

Cain has only recently been given extensive media coverage following his 9-9-9 plan for a simplified, flat tax and success in the Florida straw poll, and this surge appears to correlate with the results from the survey, Henson said.

“I think Herman Cain’s appeal for Republicans is that he seems to use common sense and straight talk,” said Jenna White, chairwoman of the Young Conservatives of Texas UT Chapter. “Rick Perry has performed poorly in the debates and has doubled down on some policies that are unpopular among Texans. I don’t think it’s especially surprising that Cain and Perry are at the top.”

The results differ significantly from polls taken earlier in the year, when Sarah Palin was a popular candidate for the 2012 election, Ramsey said.

“There aren’t a lot of polls going on in Texas, so we do see a lot of distance [between poll results],” Ramsey said. “Here we are a few months down the road, and it looks like we have the whole field.”

Pollsters are careful to not interpret the results of the poll as indicators of future trends, and another poll will be held closer to the actual March primary, Henson said.

Henson said, for example, the recent allegations that Cain sexually harassed two women when he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s could have affected opinion since the poll.

“The poll is a snapshot in time,” Henson said. “What has happened in the past 48 hours may have already changed that. It’s a very open question whether these results will be present in the spring.”