Post holiday polls–Iowa’s first-in-nation primary polls analyzed beyond just the top-line numbers.
The latest post-holiday polls are in for Iowa–the home of the first Republican Primary (actually Iowa employs a caucus attendee voting mechanism to select their convention delegates). Iowa is now a toss-up between Cruz and Trump in the Republican caucuses. Rubio and Carson duke it out for third. Sanders moves within striking distance of Hillary on the Democratic side. Behind the headline numbers, a deeper look into the polls reveals some interesting points. But first the top line numbers.
Two new Republican caucus polls from Iowa have been released in the past 24 hours: The Public Policy Polling (PPP), and the highly respected Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll. They both show the Republican race very close, with PPP having Trump over Cruz 28 percent to 26 per cent, while the Iowa poll shows Cruz on top, 25 percent to 22 percent. Rubio is third in both polls–15 points behind Rubio. Carson is a point further back in fourth place in the Iowa poll and 5 points behind Rubio in the PPP poll. The other candidates are seemingly out of the race in the Iowa poll, with none exceeding 5 percent. In the PPP poll, Bush garners 6 percent while the others are the choice of only 3 percent or less of the likely Republican caucus-goers. In the previous Iowa poll, Cruz led Trump by 10 points. Readers should remember that Iowa is not a winner-take-all state, and many of the also rans will pick up a few delegates there.
Despite the narrowing of the race, Cruz staffers feel confident, insofar as he is the second choice of more Iowa likely Republican caucus voters than Trump, he has fewer “unfavorables,” and has had a well organized field staff in place for a long time–something Trump has just recently began to mobilize. Rubio has targeted Cruz, perhaps believing that the runner-up to Trump in the early primaries will benefit most from a hoped for Trump meltdown come the Super Tuesday primaries.
Yet, there is seemingly a fly-in-the-ointment for Cruz. He was born in Canada from a Cuban father and a mother who was a United States citizen. Trump has been drawing attention to this fact at every turn, and that likely accounts for Trump’s improved numbers. The Constitution says that the President must be a natural born citizen. The vast majority of constitutional scholars believe that a child born of a U.S. citizen, even if born abroad, is automatically a U.S. citizen. However, there are a few scholars who either question that interpretation or suggest that it has yet to be tested in the courts. Trump has capitalized on the issue and Iowa Republicans are mostly strict constitutional constructionists. Cruz will also have to weather a campaign donation mini-scandal that appears to be brewing right now.
There also is some evidence that Trump attracts more racist and xenophobic supporters than Cruz, and his strong anti-Muslim and immigrant stance may account for some of his recent gains. Trump was one of the last public figures to raise the “birther” issue about President Obama, asserting that he was not born in the United States, despite Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate, local newspaper announcements of his birth, and even the Republican governor of Hawaii affirming Obama’s birth there. The PPP poll asked respondents whether they thought Obama was born in the United States as well as whether they were offended by bilingual use. They found that: “Among people who think Obama was not born in the United States, Trump is dominant, getting 38% to 23% for Cruz. But among non-birthers–either people who think Obama was born in the country or aren’t sure, Cruz is leading Trump 29/22.” PPP also found that Trump gains support from those who are offended by bilinguality. Fifty-two percent of the Republican likely caucus voters said that they were offended by bilingual phone menus where you press 1 to continue in English and 2 to continue in Spanish. Trump leads Cruz by 37 percent to 26 percent among that group. Whereas among the 40 percent who weren’t offended by it, Cruz gets 26 percent, Rubio gets 18 percent and Trump trails them at 17 percent. PPP concluded that, “Trump’s success really is built on the support of the most intolerant segment of the GOP base.”
The polls differ somewhat on whether this newly raised “birther” issue will make a difference in Cruz’ support. The Iowa Poll asked respondents if the fact that Cruz was born in Canada from a U.S. mother would bother them. 83 percent said it wouldn’t, 15 percent said it would. PPP found that only 46 percent of Iowa Republicans polled were aware that Cruz was born outside of the U.S. When informed of that fact, 65 percent of them said that it made no difference to them, but 24 percent said that they were less likely to vote for him. Trump will make sure that Iowa Republicans are aware of the issue. In a race that is essentially a statistical tie for the lead, this could become a crucial issue.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders has closed the gap with Hillary Clinton to the point where PPP found that she now leads him by only 6 percent, a 12 point shift from their previous poll. Sanders’ favorability ratings are also on the rise. However, 78 percent of her supporters say their mind is made up compared to only 64 percent of Sanders’ supporters. The Iowa Poll found the race even closer with Clinton leading Sanders by only 2 points at 42 percent to 40 percent. Quinnipiac actually had Sanders in the lead in Iowa at 49 percent to 44 percent. Hillary started out with high name recognition whereas Sanders did not, therefore, given Sanders’ high favorability numbers–compared to Clinton’s–a narrowing of the race as he became better known to Iowa Democrats is not at all surprising. Hillary has a strong organization on the ground in Iowa. I stress the importance of a field staff in Iowa because of the caucus system they use–that requires a solid organization to make sure supporters get to their caucus. One other finding from Iowa worth noting is that O’Malley, languishing a distant third, garners between 4 percent to 8 percent in all of the polls. There is some evidence, based upon second choices, that O’Malley’s presence in the race slightly benefits Clinton.
As a final note: Gravis, whose early polls have often produced outlier results, has Clinton leading Sanders in Iowa by 21 points; on the Republican side they show Trump leading Cruz by 6 points, Carson coming in third at 9 percent, with Rubio further back than in the other polls, tied with Christie for fourth with only 5 percent. Thursday, January 14, the Iowa Republican debate will likely affect these numbers.
With the Iowa caucuses only a couple of weeks away, we are obviously coming down the home stretch. Yet, many voters in Iowa are still undecided and it appears that issue-relevant-information is slow to disseminate among a sizable number of prospective caucus-goers–as a result the situation there, for both parties, is still quite fluid. Bookmark this site, if you haven’t already, as we’ll keep our updates current and, as always, go beyond just the top-line poll findings.