ABC News’ Shushannah Walshe (@shushwalshe) reports:
She is still not an announced candidate, Sarah Palin still casts a long shadow across the Republican presidential field.
Despite fierce campaigning and the rise of Michele Bachmann, who is popular among Tea Party Republicans in particular, it is Palin who would come in second to Mitt Romney if the 2012 GOP primary were held today, according to the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll. Romney has 26 percent support for the nomination among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, while Palin has 18 percent. Michele Bachmann comes in third with 12 percent, with the rest of the field only scoring in the single digits.
If Palin is removed from the poll her support spreads to all the other candidates.
Although Romney tops Palin in the poll, she has a numerical advantage when participants were asked who “best understands the problems of people like you.” When it comes to which candidate is “closest to you on the issues” and who best represents core Republican values she runs evenly with Romney.
When it comes to Tea Party support, Bachmann scores much higher than Palin. Among strong Tea Party supporters Bachmann scores highest with 23 percent, which is a statistical tie with Romney – 18 percent. Palin has 13 percent.
On many of the questions polled with people who identify as strong Tea Partiers, support jumped in Bachmann’s corner, but Langer Research Associates polling analyst Julie Phelan points out Palin is still polling positively with some parts of the electorate. Langer Research Associates produced the poll.
“She’s polling well among some groups like white evangelical Protestants and men, but there is definitely still a lot of room to move and Bachmann seems to be taking away some of the support with the Tea Party,” Phelan said.
As Phelan mentioned, Palin is polling better with men earning 21 percent support from men polled compared to only 14 percent of support from women polled. She’s also almost tied with Romney among evangelical white Protestants while Bachmann is in a statistical tie with Romney among leaned Republicans who are following the 2012 presidential campaign closely.
Romney polls better than Palin with higher-income and more-educated leaned Republicans. With this group, Palin drops to 9 percent support among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who hold a college degree.
At this early stage in the race Phelan says there is still a lot of room to move possibly giving hope to Romney’s rivals.
“Romney is the clear leader with 26 percent of the vote, but that means 74 percent of leaned Republicans are not supporting him, which suggests the field is still wide open,” Phelan said.
In last month’s ABC News poll, 64 percent of Americans polled would definitely not vote for Palin, including 41 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. This question was not asked in the latest poll, but Phelan points out this would be “a significant hurdle for both the primary and general election, if she were to be nominated.”
Also in last month’s poll, people were asked to volunteer who they would support for the 2012 GOP nomination as opposed to giving a list of names. Due to the difference those poll results aren't directly comparable to this poll, but last month she was numerically behind, but statistically tied with Romney: 21% said they'd vote for Romney, 17% for Palin.
Phelan says the results from both last month’s and the current poll still have much to do with the fact that Romney and Palin are more known to the electorate.
“This early in the game, name recognition still has something to do with it. That’s why you are seeing Bachmann rise in the polls as her name becomes more familiar. Romney’s early lead and Palin’s too is partly because they are well known,” Phelan said.