Newt Gingrich has taken the lead in PPP's newest poll of Iowa Republican caucus voters with 27% to 18% for Ron Paul, 16% for Mitt Romney, 13% for Michele Bachmann, 9% for Rick Perry, 6% for Rick Santorum, 4% for Jon Huntsman, and 1% for Gary Johnson.
Gingrich has gained 19 points since PPP's last poll of the race in early October. Also showing momentum are Paul whose support is up 8% and Bachmann whose support is up 5%. Romney has dropped 6 points since then with the other candidates mostly standing in place.
Gingrich's rise to the top is being fueled by strong support from seniors and the Tea Party. With voters over 65 he's at 37% leading Romney's 18% and Paul's 11% by 19 and 26 points respectively. With Tea Party voters Gingrich is at 35% with Bachmann actually coming in at second with 23%, Paul in third at 14%, and Romney all the way back at just 4%.
Paul's benefiting from the lack of action on the Democratic side this year. 20% of likely caucus goers are either Democrats or independents and with them he's leading the way with 28% t0 18% for Gingrich and 13% for Romney and Bachmann. He's also very strong with younger voters, getting 23% with those under 45 to 21% for Gingrich, 16% for Bachmann, and 15% for Romney.
When PPP polled Iowa for the first time this year in January 57% of voters had a favorable opinion of Romney to 26% with an unfavorable one. Now he's at only 49/45, representing a 27 point decline in his net favorability over the course of the year. Perhaps most troubling for Romney, only 48% of those who voted for him in 2008 say they're planning to do so again this year.
Bachmann appears to be having a little bit of a resurgence. Her favorability in early October was down to 44/38 but now she's back up to 56/35. There may be some hope for her yet. Perry's 9% is the same as what he had in October, but given that he's fallen below 5% most everywhere else we've polled in the last month it at least means he's doing comparatively well in Iowa.
43% of likely caucus goers say government spending and reducing the deficit is the issue most important to them and they're supporting Gingrich 34-17 over Paul with Bachmann at 16% and Romney only at 12%. 27% say jobs and the economy are most important and they go for Romney 29-24 over Gingrich with Paul at 14%. If you want a reason why Rick Santorum has never caught on it's probably because only 9% of likely caucus goers say that social issues are the thing most important to them. He's getting 17% with those voters but it's just not a very big piece of the pie.
Electability is not usually a trait you would associate with Newt Gingrich but 33% of Republicans think he would be the candidate with the best chance to defeat Barack Obama with Mitt Romney at 23% and no one else hitting double digits. 57% of voters say they're most concerned with a candidate's stand on the issues to 34% who are most concerned about getting the candidate who can beat Obama. Paul actually leads Gingrich 23-20 with voters who care most about a candidate's stances. But Gingrich has the overall lead because he's at 39% with those most concerned about electability to 18% for Romney and only 11% for Paul.
There's been a lot of discussion about the comparative lack of retail politics this year. Only 29% of likely voters have seen one of the candidates in person. Ron Paul is winning over those folks with 27% to 22% for Gingrich and 17% for Romney. But Gingrich leads Paul 29-14 with those who haven't seen any candidates on the stump. Only 21% of caucus voters say it's 'very important' to them that a candidate spends a lot of time in Iowa.
One reason Gingrich is moving ahead of Romney in Iowa? 42% of voters say they would have major concerns about a candidate who supported an individual mandate for health care to just 34% who say they'd have major concerns about a candidate who cheated on his spouse. Romney's health care plan is a bigger liability than Gingrich's marriages. There's also not much evidence that Gingrich's immigration stance will prove to be an issue. Only 29% of caucus voters think illegal immigrants who have been in the country for 25 years and paid their taxes and obeyed the law should be deported, to 44% who think they should not be. Something may sink Newt's campaign in the next month, but it's not likely to be that issue.
For all that there's one piece of news in this poll that's very good for Romney and very bad for Gingrich. 66% of Romney's remaining supporters in Iowa are strongly committed to him. 62% of Paul's supporters are strongly committed to him. But only 49% of Gingrich's supporters say they'll definitely vote for him. Newt's support is comparatively weak. And the second choice of Gingrich voters? For 26% of them it's none other than Mitt Romney to 17% for Perry, 15% for Bachmann, and 13% for Paul. So if Gingrich's campaign does fade over the course of December we could end up with Romney back at the top, just like was expected all along.
We'll be running an Iowa tracking poll every week for the duration of the campaign, if you have suggestions of other questions we should be asking please share them.
Full results here