The Monmouth University Poll of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers finds Scott Walker in the lead and Donald Trump in second place. The poll did not find any significant change in support for Trump in interviews conducted after his comments about John McCain’s military service. The poll also found that Bobby Jindal makes his way into the second tier of candidates, doing better in Iowa than in the national polls.
When Iowa Republicans are asked who they would support in their local caucus, Scott Walker is the first choice of 22% followed by Donald Trump at 13%. The next group of candidates includes Ben Carson (8%), Jeb Bush (7%), Ted Cruz (7%), the 2008 Iowa winner Mike Huckabee (6%), Marco Rubio (5%), Rand Paul (5%), and Bobby Jindal (4%). Rick Santorum (3%) – who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012 – Rick Perry (3%), and Carly Fiorina (3%) are tied for 10th place. The rest of the field garners no more than 2% of the vote as a first choice, including John Kasich (2%), Chris Christie (1%), George Pataki (<1%), Lindsey Graham (0%), and Jim Gilmore (0%). Another 11% of likely caucusgoers are undecided.
Support among key groups includes:
- Tea Party – Walker leads Trump 27% to 14% among Tea Party supporters, with Ted Cruz in coming third at 12%. Among non-supporters of the Tea Party, Walker has a nominal lead (18%), followed by Trump (11%), Bush (11%), and Carson (9%).
- Ideology – Very conservative voters line up behind Walker (22%), Trump (14%) and Cruz (12%) as their top picks. Somewhat conservative voters back Walker (23%), followed by Trump (12%), Carson (10%), and Bush (10%). Moderate to liberal voters choose Walker (19%), Bush (15%), Trump (10%), Rubio (10%), and Carson (10%) as their top tier.
- Evangelicals – Evangelical voters favor Walker (17%), Trump (13%), Cruz (10%), Carson (10%), and Huckabee (9%). Non-evangelical voters prefer Walker (26%), Trump (12%), and Bush (10%).
- Gender – Walker and Trump take the top two spots with both male (24% and 16%, respectively) and female (19% and 10%) caucusgoers.
- Age – Walker (25%) is the clear favorite among voters age 50 and older, followed by Trump (13%) and Carson (9%). Voters under 50 years old spread their support among Walker (13%), Paul (13%), Trump (12%), Cruz (10%), and Rubio (10%).
Trump’s statement about John McCain’s status as a war hero, made Saturday morning at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, IA, generated almost universal backlash from his rivals but does not seem to have had an immediate impact on his support among Hawkeye State Republicans. In interviews conducted Thursday and Friday, Trump garnered 13% of the vote to 19% for Walker. This is only slightly different than results from the Saturday and Sunday interviews, which put Trump at 13% to 25% for Walker.
“Walker has been a favorite of Iowa voters ever since his well-received appearance at the Iowa Freedom summit in January. More recently, Trump has outmaneuvered the rest of the field to earn the second spot despite his controversial statements over the weekend,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ. “It’s worth noting that Bobby Jindal enjoys more support in Iowa than he does nationally. He is among the top ten candidates in Iowa, but his showing in the national polls makes it unlikely he will gain entry to the first debate.”
Looking at the fundamental strengths of the candidates, Iowa voters hold an almost universally positive opinion of Scott Walker. He holds a 73% favorable to just 9% unfavorable rating among likely caucusgoers. This +64 point net positive rating is more than double the +31 rating (42% favorable to 11% unfavorable) he received from Republicans across the country in last week’s national Monmouth University Poll (bit.ly/1K1hXYi). He is also significantly better known in Iowa where fewer than 1-in-5 Republican voters have no opinion of him compared to nearly half nationwide.
Donald Trump holds a positive 47% favorable to 35% unfavorable rating, which is better than the 40% favorable to 41% unfavorable rating he received from national Republicans last week. He has higher favorable ratings among very conservative caucusgoers (55%) than he does among somewhat conservative (41%) and moderate to liberal (37%) Iowa Republicans. He also has higher favorability ratings among Tea Party supporters (56%) compared to non-supporters (39%) and among men (51%) compared to women (41%).
Other candidates who have significantly better ratings among Republicans in Iowa than they do nationally are Marco Rubio (64% favorable to 14% unfavorable), Ben Carson (63% to 11%), Rick Perry (61% to 18%), Bobby Jindal (59% to 12%), and Carly Fiorina (44% to 10%). Carson and Jindal are also better known in Iowa than nationally. One candidate who garners worse ratings in Iowa is Jeb Bush – Hawkeye State Republicans give him a negative 40% favorable to 42% unfavorable rating compared to the positive 50% to 30% national rating he earned in last week’s Monmouth University Poll.
The rest of the field earns similar net ratings from both Iowa caucusgoers and national Republican voters. The Iowa results for candidates with a net positive rating are: Mike Huckabee (58% favorable to 23% unfavorable), Ted Cruz (53% to 17%), Rick Santorum (50% to 27%), Rand Paul (42% to 32%), and John Kasich (24% to 17%). The Iowa results for candidates with a net negative rating are: Chris Christie (26% favorable to 51% unfavorable), Lindsey Graham (18% to 41%), George Pataki (10% to 36%), and Jim Gilmore (4% to 17%).
“Rick Santorum is much better known in the state he won back in 2012, but his net personal rating in Iowa is no different than his standing nationally,” said Murray. “One of the reasons why candidates like Santorum and Huckabee are not doing as well this time around is that GOP voters are less concerned with social issues than they were in past contests.”
Issues in the 2016 GOP Nomination Contest
When asked to choose the most important issue in deciding who they will support for the GOP nomination, Iowa caucusgoers select national security (28%) as their top concern, outpacing taxes and government spending (18%), the economy (16%), immigration (12%), social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage (11%) and education (4%). Another 10% of voters say all six issues are equally important in their vote.
Voters were also presented with the opportunity to choose a second choice among these issues. When both the first and second choices are combined, national security remains on top at 45%. About 1-in-3 also name the economy (38%), taxes and spending (33%), and immigration (30%). Social issues (21%) and education (8%) are seen as less important. Even among evangelical voters, 44% name national security as one of their top two concerns in backing a GOP nominee, compared to 29% who say the same about social issues.
Over 1-in-4 GOP caucusgoers (28%) say they would be very willing to support a candidate they don’t fully agree with on the issues in order to nominate someone who would have the best shot at winning the White House. Another 4-in-10 (42%) would be somewhat willing to put practical politics before ideological purity. Fewer than 3-in-10 would be not too willing (14%) or not at all willing (14%).
The poll also found that Iowa Republicans are divided on how this year’s large field of presidential contenders might impact their party. About one third (32%) say the number of candidates in the race is good for the party while 38% say it is bad for the party. Another 26% say it has no impact.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from July 16 to 19, 2015 with 452 Iowa voters likely to attend the Republican presidential caucuses in February 2016. This sample has a margin of error of +4.6 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.