Cruz rising in Iowa; Clinton back out to dominant lead

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s newest Iowa poll finds a tight race on the Republican side in the state with Donald Trump at 22%, Ben Carson at 21%, Ted Cruz at 14%, Marco Rubio at 10%, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal each at 6%, and Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina each at 5%. Polling further back are Chris Christie at 3%, John Kasich, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum each at 2%, Lindsey Graham with less than 1%, and Jim Gilmore and George Pataki each with no supporters.

Compared to our last Iowa poll in mid-September Trump’s support is down 2 points (from 24% to 22%), while Carson’s support is up 4 points (from 17% to 21%) putting them in the deadlock. The big gainer from a month ago is Ted Cruz though. He’s gone from 8% to 14%, and also seen his favorability rating improve from 51/23 to 62/16. Cruz is now leading the field in Iowa among Tea Party voters (34% to 24% for Trump and 22% for Carson), and voters who identify themselves as ‘very conservative’ (24% to 22% for Carson and 21% for Trump.)

Carson continues to be easily the most popular of the Republican candidates in Iowa with 74% of GOP primary voters viewing him favorably to only 13% with a negative opinion. He’s also the most frequent second choice in the state with 19% picking him on that front to 12% for Rubio, and 10% each for Cruz and Trump. When you combine first and second choices Carson leads the way with 40% to 32% for Trump, 24% for Cruz, and 22% for Rubio. Carson is leading the field among evangelicals with 22% to 19% for Trump, and 16% for Cruz, and also has the advantage among women with 22% to 19% for Trump, and 11% each for Cruz and Rubio.

Besides Cruz and Carson the gainers compared to our last Iowa poll, each of whom went up 2 points, are Rubio (from 8% to 10%), Jindal (from 4% to 6%), and Christie (from 1% to 3%). Jindal (60/18) and Rubio (60/20) have the highest favorability ratings of any candidate in Iowa other than Carson and Cruz. Even though he’s still lagging pretty far back in the polls Christie’s had an amazing transformation in his image over the last two and a half months. When we polled Iowa in August right after the first Republican debate, only 34% of Republicans in the state had a favorable opinion of him to 44% who held a negative one. Now 48% see him favorably to 28% with an unfavorable opinion of him, for an overall net 30 point gain. It’s been quite a turn around.

Heading the wrong way in Iowa as she is elsewhere is Carly Fiorina. We found her at 13% and with a 62/15 favorability rating right after the September GOP debate. Now she’s at just 5% and although her favorability rating is still good at 55/20, it has dipped some. The only person besides Fiorina and Trump to have seen a decline in their support of 2 points or more is Rand Paul who’s gone from 4% to 2%.

Jeb Bush is having a rough time in Iowa. Only 30% of GOP voters see him favorably to 43% with a negative opinion, giving him the highest unfavorable rating of any of the candidates in Iowa. Among those who describe themselves as ‘very conservative,’ just 25% see Bush favorably to 53% who have a negative view. One measure of how Bush-resistant GOP voters are is that in a head to head with Trump he trails 55/37. By comparison Trump loses by double digits when matched up directly with Rubi0 (51/40), Cruz (53/36), or Carson (55/35).

Also struggling in Iowa among the candidates who were included in the main debate last week is John Kasich. Beyond his 2% standing for the nomination his 22/37 favorability rating is basically the same as Lindsey Graham’s 20/38 spread, even though Kasich is generally taken seriously as a candidate and Graham is not. 

As for Trump his 53/34 favorability rating is actually a little better than the 48/38 spread it came in at in September. He’s winning among GOP voters most concerned about electability (26% to 22% for Carson and 14% for Rubio), among men (25% to 20% for Carson and 17% for Cruz), and younger voters (26% to 22% for Carson and 12% for Cruz.) His strongest group though is moderates- with them he gets 38% to 12% for Carson and 11% for Rubio, and that’s what’s allowing him to have his small overall advantage.

Iowa Republicans have generally been getting less interested in watching the debates. 62% said they watched the August one, 56% said they watched in September, and that went down to 44% for last week’s debate. Even if not as many voters watched this time though it didn’t stop them from joining in the anger at CNBC. Only 9% of Iowa GOPers say they have a favorable opinion of CNBC, to 74% with a negative one. Of course those numbers aren’t that distinguishable from the 8/83 favorability the media has overall with Republicans in the state.

On the Democratic side in Iowa Hillary Clinton has really reestablished her dominance, getting 57% to 25% for Bernie Sanders, 7% for Martin O’Malley, and 1% for the now departed Lawrence Lessig. Clinton’s seen a 15 point improvement in her net favorability rating over the last six weeks, from +42 at 65/23 in mid-September to now +57 at 74/17. Sanders has continued to become more popular too, going from 56/20 to 62/20.

Clinton is really dominating with several key groups in Iowa. Among seniors she’s up 74/13 and with women she’s up 61/21. She leads across the board with the various constituencies we track but it is tighter with younger voters (43/40), men (51/31), and voters who identify themselves as ‘very liberal’ (48/30).

Full results here

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