Ron Paul's CPAC Straw Poll Victory Reconsidered

Does Congressman Ron Paul’s victory in the CPAC straw poll signal that his following has made itself a sizeable minority within the conservative movement?  Or is Paul’s CPAC showing akin to his performance in the 2008 election, noisy but not significant?

Paul’s Friday afternoon speech was one of the more anticipated speeches of the weekend and he then cruised to victory among conservatives in a straw poll of 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls. Paul finished a comfortable margin ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the next most popular candidate.

However, the full impact of Paul’s victory on the conservative movement, particularly as presidential candidates for 2012 will soon be in the limelight, remains to be seen.

53 percent of those polled wished that the GOP had a better field of candidates. 11 different candidates recorded votes, not including the 11 percent of votes which went to “Other” and “Undecided.”

Also, only about 24% of the estimated CPAC attendance took part in the straw poll. Aside from questions concerning demographics, the poll asked 8 questions on issues such as job approval ratings, ideological concerns, and preferences for the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

“Thinking ahead to the 2012 Presidential election, who would you vote for as the next Republican nominee for President?” the question asked.

A spokesperson for the American Conservative Union (ACU), which hosts CPAC, told Human Events that they did not know how many of the ballots, if any, produced the selection of more than one candidate.

31 percent of the respondents selected Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.). 22 percent of those polled selected Romney. Other popular candidates saw little success. Sarah Palin only garnered 7 percent of the vote; Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty received 6 percent; Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee both received just 4 percent.

5 percent of the respondents voted “Other,” and 6 percent voted “Undecided.”

According to two separate questions, the respondents favored reduction in the size of government, as well as in spending, as the principles most important to them. Only a minority held more social concerns, such as abolishing abortion, gun rights, and traditional marriage, as the most important to them.

One of the questions stated: “Which ONE of the following comes closest to your core beliefs and ideology?”

80 percent of those polled selected “to promote individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government and its intrusion into the lives of its citizens.”

Only 9 percent selected “to promote traditional values by protecting traditional marriage and protecting the life of the unborn,” and 7 percent selected “to secure and guarantee American safety abroad regardless of the cost or size of government.”

The other question stated: “Which of the following issues is MOST, and SECOND MOST IMPORTANT to you personally?”

“Reducing size of Federal Government” came in first, with an overwhelming 35 percent voting it as their first choice and 17 percent voting it as their second choice. It was followed by “Reducing Government Spending,” which held 12 percent of the first choice vote and 21 percent of the second choice vote.

Paul was certainly helped by the libertarian base of the conservative grassroots movement, which constituted a sizeable majority at the event.

The organizations Campaign for Liberty, Students for Liberty, and Ladies of Liberty Alliance all made their voices heard. Blogger William Upton wrote for The American Conservative, “These three, mostly youth-based, organizations made their presence thoroughly felt at CPAC.”

“From the very start of the conference, attendees and media covering the event have commented on the ubiquitous presence of Campaign for Liberty and its enthusiastic young supporters,” reported Business Wire on Feb. 19.

A spokesperson for Campaign for Liberty told Human Events that “it’s safe to say several hundred” members of the organization attended CPAC, but added that they purchased their own tickets to the event. The organization sent 11 paid staff to CPAC, he added.