AlthoughÂ Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Sarah Palin lead the field of potential Republican presidential candidates among all Republicans nationwide, there are significant differences in candidate preferences when Republicans are divided by the issue they think is most important. Those focused on government spending and power are most likely to favor Huckabee or Romney, while those focused on the economy favor Romney or Palin. Republicans who say social and moral values are most important favor Huckabee or Palin.
There are many ways to segment the Republican voting population as next year’s presidential primaries and caucuses draw closer. One of these is “issues voting groups” — divisions based on the issues voters consider most important in their political thinking. Given four issue choices, Republicans at this point are most focused on two: the role of government and the economy. Fewer Republicans choose national security and moral issues at this point in the 2012 election cycle, even though international and moral issues have often defined the GOP’s political platforms in previous years.
A successful candidate for the GOP nomination will not necessarily need to do well across all of these voter segments, but certainly will need to be aware of his or her positioning among those in each segment. Single-issue candidates can win primaries, but generally a broader appeal across issue groups can help a candidate win the multiple primaries necessary to gain a party’s nomination.