With the clock counting down to Election Day, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden receive the support of 50% of likely voters in Iowa, including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who voted absentee, to 44% for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Two percent support another candidate, and 4% are undecided.
“President Obama’s lead in Iowa is due to those who have voted early or plan to do so, including many independents,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Obama has a 21 point lead among Independent voters who plan to cast an early ballot while Romney is up 9 points among independents who plan to vote on Election Day.”
When NBC News/WSJ/Marist reported this question earlier this month, 51% of likely voters, including those who were undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who voted absentee, supported Obama and Biden while 43% backed Romney and Ryan. Two percent were for another candidate, and 4% were undecided.
- Party ID. 94% of Democrats who are likely to vote are behind the president while 91% of Republicans who are likely to cast a ballot are for Romney. Among likely independent voters, 47% support Obama compared with 39% for Romney.
- Enthusiasm. 60% of likely voters are very enthusiastic about voting. 65% of likely voters who are Romney supporters are very enthusiastic to vote compared with 61% of those who back Obama. Since NBC News/WSJ/Marist’s previous survey, enthusiasm is up slightly. At that time, 55% of likely voters were very enthusiastic. While there has been little change in the enthusiasm of Romney’s backers — 64%, there has been an increase among Obama’s backers. In that last survey, 53% of Obama’s supporters said they were very enthusiastic.
- Intensity of support. 88% of likely voters who support a candidate strongly support their choice. 12% are somewhat behind their pick while less than 1% might vote differently. Less than 1% is unsure. Among likely voters who support Obama, 86% are firmly committed to him. This compares with 89% of Romney’s backers who say they stand strong behind their candidate.
- Gender. 56% of women who are likely to go to the polls support Obama compared with 40% for Romney. Among men who are likely to vote, Romney — 48% — edges Obama — 44%.
- Age. The president — 61% — leads Romney — 30% — among likely voters under the age of 30. 48% of likely voters 30 to 44 support Obama compared with 43% for Romney. Those 45 to 59 divide, 49% for Obama, and 47% for Romney. Obama — 48% — is neck and neck with Romney — 47% — among likely voters 60 and older.
- Early voters. 45% of registered voters in Iowa have already voted or plan to do so before Election Day. Among likely voters who have cast their ballot or plan to do so early, Obama — 62% — leads Romney — 35%. Among those who plan to vote on Election Day, Romney — 55% — has the advantage over Obama — 35%.
Looking at registered voters, including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who voted absentee, Obama and Biden have 49% compared with 43% for Romney and Ryan. Two percent support another candidate, and 6% are undecided.
Majority Views Obama Favorably… Romney Still More Negative than Positive
52% of likely voters in Iowa have a favorable view of President Obama. This compares with 44% who have an unfavorable one. Five percent are unsure.
Earlier this month, 54% of likely voters thought well of the president while 43% did not. Three percent were unsure.
Romney’s favorability is still upside down. 43% have a positive view of him while 49% have an unfavorable impression of him. Eight percent are unsure.
In NBC News/WSJ/Marist’s previous survey, 44% of likely voters statewide had a favorable opinion of Romney while 51% had an unfavorable one. Five percent, at that time, were unsure.
Obama and Romney Neck and Neck on Economy…Obama Tops on Foreign Policy
When it comes to the nation’s economy, 44% of registered voters in Iowa think Obama will do a better job handling the economy, and the same proportion — 44% — believes Romney is more capable to handle the issue. 11% are unsure. Among likely voters in Iowa, 45% say Obama is better suited to turn around the country’s economy, and 45% think Romney is the candidate for the job. 10% are unsure.
Earlier in October, 46% of Iowa registered voters statewide reported Obama was the stronger candidate on the economy compared with 46% who had this view of Romney. At that time, 9% were unsure.
However, Obama — 50% — outperforms Romney — 38% — among registered voters on foreign policy. 11% are unsure. Similar proportions of likely voters agree. 51% think Obama is more capable to deal with foreign policy issues while 39% say Romney is. 10% are unsure.
Earlier this month, Obama — 51% — had the advantage over Romney — 39% — among registered voters in Iowa. At that time, 11% were unsure.
Nearly Half Approve of Obama’s Job Performance
Among Iowa registered voters, 48% approve of the president’s job performance while 45% disapprove. Seven percent are unsure.
Earlier this month, 50% gave Obama high marks while 43% thought he fell short. Six percent were unsure.
A Nation Off Track, Says Half
50% of Iowa registered voters think the country is moving in the wrong direction while 44% say it is traveling in the right one. Six percent are unsure.
Previously, 47% of registered voters in Iowa thought the country’s compass was broken while 47% believed the nation’s trajectory was on target. At that time, 6% were unsure.
In the presidential contest in Iowa, 51% of likely voters, including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who voted absentee, support President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. 43% are for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Two percent back another candidate, and 4% are undecided.
“When likely voters intend to cast their ballot tells us a lot about what is happening in Iowa,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Those who have already voted are breaking for Obama by more than two to one. In contrast, Romney leads by double digits with those who will vote on Election Day.”
In NBC News/WSJ/Marist’s September survey in Iowa, 50% of likely voters in Iowa, including those who were undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, were behind Obama and Biden while 42% supported Romney and Ryan. Only 1% was behind another candidate, and 7%, at that time, were undecided.
- Debate difference? The presidential debate on Tuesday night has done little to change the landscape of the presidential election in Iowa. Only 3% of likely voters say they made up their mind after the debate. Prior to the debate, 52% of likely voters supported the president while 43% backed Romney. One percent was behind another candidate, and 4% were undecided. Following the debate, on Wednesday, 51% of likely voters are behind the president while 43% support Romney. Two percent are for another candidate, and 4% are undecided.
- Party ID. Most Democrats who are likely to vote — 96% — favor the president while most Republicans who are likely to cast a ballot — 92% — back Romney. Among independent likely voters, 49% rally for the president while 38% are for Romney.
- Enthusiasm. 55% of Iowa likely voters are very enthusiastic about voting next month. Romney’s backers — 64% — are very enthusiastic about going to the polls compared with 53% of Obama’s supporters. Compared with NBC News/WSJ/Marist’s September survey, there has been an increase in the proportion of likely voters who back Romney who also express a high degree of enthusiasm. 55% felt this way in the previous poll. There has been little change among Obama’s supporters. In September, 55% of the president’s supporters had a similar level of enthusiasm.
- Intensity of support. 86% of Iowa likely voters are strongly committed to their choice of candidate. 13% somewhat support their pick while 1% may vote differently. Less than 1% is unsure. 86% of Romney’s supporters are firmly in his camp while 85% of Obama’s backers strongly support him. In September, 80% of likely voters behind Romney and 82% of Obama’s supporters reported a high level of commitment to their candidate.
- Gender. A gender gap exists. 57% of likely voters who are women are behind Obama compared with 39% who back Romney. Among men who are likely to cast a ballot, Romney edges Obama — 48% to 45%.
- Age. Young voters favor the president. 67% of likely voters under the age of thirty support the president. This compares with 23% who are for Romney. Among Iowa likely voters 30 to 44, 48% back Obama while 47% are for Romney. Among likely voters between 45 and 59, Obama has the support of 51% compared with 43% for Romney. Obama and Romney are in a close contest — 49% to 47% — among voters who are 60 and older and likely to cast a ballot.
- Already voted. 34% of likely voters in Iowa indicate they have already cast their ballot. Obama leads Romney — 67% to 32% — among these voters. Romney leads Obama — 54% to 39% — among likely voters who plan to cast their ballot on Election Day.
Looking at registered voters, including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who voted absentee, Obama has the support of 50% compared with 43% who favor Romney. Two percent back another candidate, and 5% are undecided.
Impact of the Debate
95% of likely voters say they decided on a candidate before Tuesday night’s debate. Three percent made their choice after the matchup. Two percent are unsure.
94% of Obama’s supporters selected him as their candidate prior to the debate while 3% did so post-debate. Among Romney’s backers, 96% decided prior to Tuesday night’s debate while 4% made their selection following it.
How did registered voters get their information about the debate? 59% mostly watched it. This compares with 19% who saw its news coverage. 22% neither tuned in for the debate nor watched the news reports about it.
65% of Democrats and 64% of Republicans viewed the debate firsthand. This compares with 52% of independent voters. 22% of independents caught the news about the debate while 26% neither watched the debate nor followed its news coverage.
Looking at age, 66% of registered voters 45 years of age or older watched the debate. This compares with just 48% of those under the age of 45 who did the same.
Majority Views Obama Favorably… Romney’s Image Still in Need of a Makeover
54% of likely voters in Iowa have a positive impression of President Obama while 43% do not. Three percent are unsure.
In NBC News/WSJ/Marist’s September survey, 53% of Iowa likely voters had a favorable view of Obama while 42% had an unfavorable one. Five percent, at that time, were unsure.
Romney’s favorability rating is still upside down. 51% of likely voters have an unfavorable opinion of him while 44% have a favorable one. Five percent are unsure.
In September, half of likely voters — 50% — had an unfavorable view of Romney while 42% had a favorable one. Eight percent were unsure.
A Look at the Vice Presidential Candidates
Likely voters in Iowa divide about Vice President Joe Biden. 47% have a favorable view of him while 46% have an unfavorable one. Eight percent are unsure.
When NBC News/WSJ/Marist reported this question last month, 44% of Iowa likely voters thought well of Biden. This compares with 43% who had an unfavorable impression of him. 13%, at that time, were unsure.
44% of likely voters have a favorable opinion of Paul Ryan. However, 45% have an unfavorable view of the candidate. 11% are unsure.
In September, 40% of Iowa likely voters had a positive view of Ryan. 43% did not, and 17% had either never heard of him or were unsure how to rate him.
Obama and Romney Battle Over Economy…Obama Bests Romney on Foreign Policy
Which candidate will do a better job handling the U.S. economy? 46% of registered voters statewide think Obama is the candidate for the job while the same proportion — 46% — has this opinion of Romney. Nine percent are unsure. Among Iowa likely voters, 47% perceive the president to be stronger on the issue compared with 46% who believe Romney will turn around the nation’s economy. Seven percent are unsure.
In September, 46% of Iowa registered voters reported Obama would better handle the economy while 42% said Romney was more capable. 11%, at the time, were unsure.
When it comes to foreign policy, Obama — 51% — outperforms Romney — 39% — among registered voters. 11% are unsure. Likely voters share these views. 51% of this group believes Obama is better prepared to handle foreign policy issues while 40% think Romney is. Nine percent are unsure.
In NBC News/WSJ/Marist’s previous survey in the state, 53% of registered voters said Obama was the stronger candidate in the foreign policy realm. 35%, however, thought Romney had the better plan. 12% were unsure.
Half Give Obama’s Job Performance Stamp of Approval
Among Iowa registered voters, 50% approve of the job President Obama is doing in office. This compares with 43% who disapprove. Six percent are unsure.
Last month, 49% of registered voters statewide applauded the president’s performance while 43% believed he fell short. Eight percent, then, were unsure.
A Nation Off Course?
When it comes to the direction of the country, 47% of registered voters in Iowa say the nation is moving in the wrong direction. The same proportion — 47% — also thinks it is moving in the right one. Six percent are unsure.
When NBC News/WSJ/Marist last reported this question in September, 49% believed the country needed a new compass. However, 43% said the country was on the correct path. Eight percent, at that time, were unsure.
In Iowa, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are in a dead heat. Among registered voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, Obama receives 44% while Romney garners the same proportion — 44%. Two percent support another candidate, and 10% are undecided.
“Both Obama and Romney are far from fifty percent in Iowa and have a lot of ground to cover,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “But, Obama’s supporters are less enthusiastic and less interested than Romney’s, and this poses a special problem for the incumbent president.”
- By party, 82% of Democrats are behind Obama while 83% of Republicans back Romney.
- Among independent voters, Obama — 42% — and Romney — 38% — are locked in a tight contest.
- Voters who have an excellent or good chance of voting in November divide. 46% are for Romney while 45% are for the president.
- Among those who express a high level of enthusiasm about the presidential election, a majority of voters — 51% — are behind Romney while Obama receives 43%. However, Obama receives majority support — 53% — among those who are moderately enthusiastic. Among these voters, Romney garners 40%. Voters with a low degree of enthusiasm divide. 38% back Mr. Romney compared with 35% for Mr. Obama.
- Nearly half of those with a high level of interest in the presidential contest — 48% — are for Romney compared with 42% for the president. Among those who express a moderate degree of interest, the president — 50% — leads Romney — 37%. 45% of Iowa voters who have low interest in the election are for Obama while 40% are for Romney.
- A majority of voters who strongly support their choice of candidate — 54% — are for Obama compared with 46% for Romney.
- There is a gender gap. 49% of men throw their support behind Romney while 40% are for Obama. Among women, Obama has 48% to 39% for Romney.
- President Obama carries Iowa voters under the age of 30. Here, he receives 50% to 40% for Romney. The candidates are neck and neck among older voters. Voters between 30 and 44 back Romney 44% to 42% for Obama. Among those 45 to 59, 45% support Romney while 44% are for Obama. Looking at those 60 and older, 44% rally for Obama while the same proportion — 44% — backs Obama.
About Two-Thirds Strongly Committed to Candidate
67% of registered voters report they strongly support their choice of candidate while 25% are somewhat committed to their choice. Seven percent might cast their ballot differently come November, and 2% are unsure.
- More than seven in ten Obama supporters — 71% — are firmly in the president’s camp while 62% of those behind Romney say they will not waver in their commitment to him.
About Four in Ten Very Enthusiastic About Voting in November
Only 38% of registered voters in Iowa are very enthusiastic about voting in November. 37% are somewhat enthusiastic while 17% are not too enthusiastic. Eight percent are not enthusiastic at all.
- 46% of Romney’s supporters are very enthusiastic about going to the polls in November. This compares with 38% of Obama’s backers who have a similar degree of enthusiasm.
Iowa Voters Divide About Obama’s Job Performance
Looking at the president’s job rating among Iowa voters, 46% approve of how Obama is doing in office while 45% disapprove. 10% are unsure.
When NBC News/Marist last reported this question in December, 45% of voters in the state gave the president good marks while 43% thought his performance fell short. 12%, at that time, were unsure.
Voters Divide Over Candidates’ Favorability
Nearly half of Iowa’s registered voters — 48% — have a favorable view of the president while 45% have an unfavorable view of him. Seven percent are unsure.
Voters also divide about what they think about Romney. 43% perceive him positively while 43% have a lesser impression of Romney. 15% are unsure.
Plurality Says Candidate’s Stance on Same-Sex Marriage Has Little Impact on Vote
34% of Iowa’s electorate report they are more likely to vote for Romney because he opposes same-sex marriage while 22% say they are more likely to cast their ballot for Obama because he supports same-sex marriage. However, 42% state a candidate’s position on same-sex marriage does not make much difference to their vote. Three percent are undecided.
Economy Tops Social Issues on Many Voters’ Priority List
When it comes to deciding their vote, 71% of voters in Iowa say the economy carries more weight than social issues. This compares with 22% who report social issues trump the economy. Seven percent are unsure.
When it comes to the candidate who will do a better job handling the economy, 46% think Romney is the candidate who is better skilled to do so while 41% believe Obama is. 13% are unsure.
Looking at the candidate who comes closer to voters’ views on social issues, there is a divide. 45% say Obama better reflects their position while 43% report Romney shares their stance. 12% are unsure.
On other issues:
- 50% of Iowa voters think Obama will do a better job handling foreign policy. This compares with 36% who have this opinion of Romney. 14% are unsure.
- Half of voters — 50% — believe Obama is the candidate who best understands voters’ problems. This compares with 38% for Romney. 13% are unsure.
- A majority of the electorate — 52% — reports Romney will do a better job reducing the national debt while 34% think Obama is better equipped to do so. 14% are unsure.
Economy Inherited, Says Nearly Six in Ten
57% of registered voters in Iowa think President Obama mostly inherited the nation’s current economic conditions. 34%, though, report the state of the economy is mostly a result of the president’s own policies. Nine percent are unsure.
What does the future hold for the U.S. economy? A majority of voters are optimistic. 55% believe the worst is over while 36% think there is more bad news ahead. Nine percent are unsure.
In the next year, nearly half of voters — 49% — say the economy will be about the same as it is now. This compares with 31% who think the economy will get better and 16% who believe it will get worse. Four percent are unsure.
When it comes to the personal finances of Iowa voters, more than six in ten — 61% — say they will be status quo in the coming year. 27% state their family’s money matters will improve while 12% think they will get worse.
Gotta’ Get Back on Track, Says Majority
54% of Iowa voters believe things in the nation are off on the wrong track. 39% disagree and say they are headed in the right direction. Six percent are unsure.
Dear Pollsters, Pols, and Press,
As you head to New Hampshire, I thought I’d save you time by providing a little pre-caucus, post-caucus pollster spin.
Case #1: Why our Iowa polls were actually very, very accurate really.
1. We interviewed over 3,000 people to eventually distill the number down to a reasonable sample of likely Iowa caucus-goers. The model of likely participants turned out so well we plan to issue a patent. On second thought, we will maintain our policy of transparency and disclosure. I’m also wondering if the combined number of likely participants identified by all of the Iowa pre-caucus polls exceeded the actual number of caucus-goers.
2. Although it is expensive and time-consuming, we interviewed a large number of cell phone only households. Not calling cell phones is another element of risk in what is already a very difficult polling environment. Is it true that every Ron Paul supporter only owns a cell phone?
3. Quality interviewers and repeated callbacks are best practices. Iowans are getting bombarded by robo-calls. Many would simply prefer to celebrate the holidays without having to answer our or anyone else’s survey.
4. The golden rule in presidential caucus/primary polling is “knowledge rules.” As the campaign goes from state to state, who can vote varies. In Iowa, independents and Democrats may declare their GOP partisan intentions and participate. Not so, everywhere.
5. Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure. Everyone can see how our poll was conducted. Visit Maristpoll.marist.edu
Unfortunately, despite doing all of the above and a lot more methodological gymnastics to measure Iowa GOPers intentions…
Case #2: Why our Iowa polls were ever so slightly a tiny bit off
1. We can’t help it if the candidates and campaigns continued to seek voter support for five days after we finished our interviews. (This is a slightly resentful restatement of the “snapshot theory,” namely that a poll is accurate only at the time it is taken.)
2. Those who told us they “might vote differently” in our final poll clearly did. (Again, this is a slightly hostile restatement of the “intensity theory,” namely, that a poll needs to consider the intensity of voter support for a candidate.) If you’re not firmly committed, then, you might reconsider your preference or decide not to caucus. And, there is, after all, the Sugar Bowl on caucus night that might prove to be an attractive alternative for college football fans.
3. Undecided voters must have mostly opted for the eventual winner. This is a traditionally useful ruse for pollster spinners. The undecided, decided!
4. There is strength in numbers (not a pollster pun), and misery definitely loves company. The polls have mostly been reporting similar findings throughout the Iowa campaign. In fact, during the final week, the polls conducted by NBC News/Marist, CNN/Time, and the Des Moines Register were all on the same page. (We all did separate interviews, honest.)
5. A word of caution before jumping onto the why the polls were wrong bandwagon. In a contest where the top tier was barely distinguishable from the second tier, small changes in voter preferences could upset the applecart. A lot of emphasis on the order of finish, for example, was based on “differences” that fell well within a poll’s margin of error.
A couple of closing thoughts as you land in Manchester. Given that the final pre-caucus polls were alike, there was a needless poll-liferation of surveys in Iowa, or so the argument goes. But, methods used by different polling organizations do vary even if their results sometimes do not. Good polls contribute to the narrative of the campaign and the Iowa polls did just that, chronicling a memorable roller coaster ride with as many as five different candidates occupying the lead car at one point.
It has often been said that predictions are difficult especially about the future. (By the way, this is often mistakenly attributed to Casey Stengel or Yogi Berra when, in fact, the Danish physicist Niels Borh is its earlier author, and you can look it up!) So, there’s no need for my fellow psephologists (look that one up, too) to wipe away any tears. There’s no crying in polling, either. We perform admirably and often exceed what meteorologists and seismologists do! If the methods are fully disclosed, then the public and the media are “let in on the secret” of what the private campaign pollsters are using to shape their campaign strategies. In that way, public polls contribute to an informed electorate.
Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist Poll or,
Lee M. Mirin-goof, depending upon how things went
With just days until the Iowa caucus, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are in a virtual dead heat. Romney receives the support of 23% to Paul’s 21%, well within this NBC News/Marist Poll’s margin of error, among likely Republican caucus-goers including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate. Rick Santorum who was in single digits earlier this month has bounced into the pack along with Rick Perry. Newt Gingrich, ahead in NBC News/Marist’s early December survey, has seen his support cut by just more than half.
Here is how the contest stands among likely Republican caucus-goers including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and the difference from earlier this month:
- 23% for Mitt Romney (+4)
- 21% for Ron Paul (+2)
- 15% for Rick Santorum (+9)
- 14% for Rick Perry (+4)
- 13% for Newt Gingrich (-15)
- 6% for Michele Bachmann (-1)
- 2% for Jon Huntsman (No change)
- 7% are undecided (-2)
“There has been a lot of movement in the past month,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “This is a contest that is very unsettled.”
In NBC News/Marist’s survey in early December, 28% of likely Republican caucus-goers including leaners supported Gingrich followed by Paul and Romney who each received 19%. Perry garnered 10% of participants’ support while 7% favored Bachmann. Santorum received 6%, and 2% were for Huntsman. Nine percent, at the time, were undecided.
Among the larger pool of potential Republican caucus-goers including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, 23% back Romney compared with 20% for Paul. Perry receives the support of 14% as does Gingrich. 12% are behind Santorum while 5% rally for Bachmann and 2% support Huntsman. 10% are undecided.
- Among likely Republican caucus-goers who are conservative or very conservative including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, 21% are for Romney compared with 18% for Santorum and the same proportion — 18% — for Paul.
- Paul — 28% — and Romney — 27% — vie for the lead among those who are liberal or moderate.
- Looking at Tea Party supporters overall, Santorum receives 20% compared with 17% for Romney and the same proportion — 17% — for Paul. Gingrich garners 16% of these participants. However, among those who are strong supporters of the Tea Party, Gingrich and Santorum each receive 22%.
- Among likely Republican caucus-goers who do not support the Tea Party, Romney — 27% — edges Paul — 24%.
- Nearly one in four likely Republican caucus-goers who are Evangelical Christians – 24% – back Santorum. This compares with 21% for Perry.
- Looking at age, 38% of likely Republican caucus-goers under 30 years old and 22% of those 30 to 44 years old back Paul. Among those 45 to 59 years old, it’s Romney with 23% and Santorum and Paul who each receive 19%. Romney — 29% — does the best among those who are 60 and older.
Majority Firmly Committed to Candidate, but Many Remain Uncertain
With the clock ticking down to the caucus, only 53% of likely Republican caucus-goers report they strongly support their choice of candidate. 33% say they are somewhat committed to their pick, and 13% think they might vote differently on Tuesday. Only 2% are unsure.
There has been an increase in the proportion of voters who say they will not waver in their support. When NBC News/Marist last reported this question in early December, 40% said they were firmly behind their choice. The same proportion — 40% — was somewhat committed to their candidate while 19% said they could change their mind. Only 1%, at that time, was unsure.
- Nearly six in ten likely Republican caucus-goers who support Santorum – 59% — are firmly committed to him. This compares with 54% of Paul’s backers, 52% of those who rally for Perry, and 51% of those who are behind Romney. 46% of Gingrich’s supporters express a similar level of support.
Romney, Perry Top List as Second Choice
When it comes to the second choice of likely Republican caucus-goers who have a candidate preference, 21% pick Romney while Perry is the second selection of 20%. Santorum receives 15% followed by Gingrich with 13%. Bachmann is next with 11% followed closely by Paul with 9%. Huntsman is the second pick of 3%, and 8% are undecided.
- Romney is the second choice of 38% of Gingrich’s backers, 34% of Paul’s supporters, and 25% of those behind Perry.
- Perry — 35% — is the second choice of those who support Santorum.
- Among those who back Romney, there is little consensus. 20% pick Gingrich as their second choice, 19% select Santorum, and 18% choose Perry.
Santorum, Paul Considered to be True Conservatives, but Gingrich Perceived to Be Best Debate Match for Obama
When it comes to the candidate who is the true conservative in the race, 23% of likely Republican caucus-goers believe Santorum deserves that title followed closely by Paul with 21%. 16% say Bachmann is the true conservative while 11% have this view of Perry. Seven percent believe Romney is the real conservative, and 6% say the same about Gingrich. Only 2% categorize Huntsman in this way. Four percent say none of the candidates deserve this title, and 9% are undecided.
However, when it comes to the best debater against President Barack Obama, 37% believe Gingrich is the best opponent. Here, Romney follows with 26%. 13% think Paul can best debate the president compared with 7% for Perry. Four percent think Bachmann is the best debate match against the president compared with 3% who have this view of Santorum. Just 1% gives Huntsman top debate honors while 2% believe none of the candidates can adequately take on the president in a debate. Seven percent are undecided.
Which is more important to likely Republican caucus-goers? A majority — 54% — want a Republican nominee who is a true conservative while 39% prefer one who can best battle it out with Obama in the debates. Seven percent are unsure.
Romney, Santorum Considered Acceptable Candidates…Loss of Confidence in Gingrich
Half of likely Republican caucus-goers — 50% — think Romney is an acceptable candidate for the GOP nomination. 27% share this view but have reservations while 21% say he is an unacceptable choice. Three percent are unsure. In NBC News/Marist’s previous survey in Iowa, fewer than half — 46% — thought Romney fit the bill.
When looking at Santorum’s acceptability, 49% believe he is a good fit for the role while 22% report he will do, but they have some concerns. The same proportion — 22% — says Santorum is an unacceptable pick, and 7% are unsure.
When it comes to Perry, there has been a slight increase in the proportion of likely Republican caucus-goers who believe he is an acceptable choice for the nomination. 44% have this view while 29% say the same but with concerns. 24% think Perry is not a good match for the role, and 4% are unsure. Perry was perceived to be an acceptable choice by 38% in NBC News/Marist’s previous survey in Iowa.
Likely Republican caucus-goers are more uncertain about Bachmann’s acceptability. Here, 37% say Bachmann is a good fit for the nomination while 25% agree but have hesitations. 34%, however, think Bachmann is an unacceptable choice, and 3% are unsure.
Looking at Paul, 35% believe he is a good fit for the role while 21% agree but with reservations. 41% say he is an unacceptable pick, and 3% are unsure. Earlier this month, 38% of likely Republican caucus-goers thought Paul was a good match for the GOP nomination.
Gingrich has slipped from grace in the eyes of likely Republican caucus-goers. 35% think Gingrich is a good fit for the nomination. 28% report he is acceptable for the role, but they have some reservations. 35%, however, say he is an unacceptable choice, and 3% are unsure. Earlier this month, Gingrich was the only candidate in the GOP field perceived by a majority of likely Republican caucus-goers — 54% — to be a good fit for the nomination with only 16% describing him as not acceptable.
Shared Values Tops List of Participants’ Priorities
What matters most to likely Republican caucus-goers? Three in ten — 30% — want a candidate who shares their values while 28% think electability is the most important factor. 23% prefer a candidate who is closest to them on the issues while 15% want someone with the experience to govern. Four percent are unsure.
There has been a change on this question. In NBC News/Marist’s early December survey, more than three in ten likely Republican caucus-goers — 31% — wanted a candidate who was closest to them on the issues while 29% desired someone who shared their values. Electability was key for 21% of likely Republican caucus-goers, and 16% preferred a candidate with experience. Two percent, at that time, were unsure.
- Santorum — 25% — has surged among those who want a candidate who shares their values. Paul receives 21% from this group of participants.
- Romney — 34% — has the advantage among those who value electability in a candidate. Gingrich trails behind with 18% of these likely Republican caucus-goers followed by Perry with 16%.
- Romney also does well among those who want a candidate who has the experience to govern. Here, 29% back Romney compared with 22% for Paul and 19% for Gingrich.
- Among those who prefer a candidate who is closest to them on the issues, Paul leads with 34% to 23% for Romney.
Getting to Know the Candidates
The candidates are making their final pitch to caucus-goers in Iowa. In the last month, 86% of likely Republican caucus-goers report being contacted by at least one of the campaigns.
The proportions of likely Republican caucus-goers who have been contacted by each of the following:
- 72% Paul campaign
- 69% Perry campaign
- 68% Romney campaign
- 68% Gingrich campaign
- 62% Bachmann campaign
- 44% Santorum campaign
Most in Iowa Do Not Want Palin or Bush to Run
Sarah Palin recently said there is still time for a Republican candidate to enter the race for the GOP nomination. Do likely Republican caucus-goers want Palin to jump in? 81% do not while 14% do. Six percent are unsure.
A run by Jeb Bush is only slightly more acceptable. 70% do not want Bush to enter the contest while 17% do. 13% are unsure.
Majority Believes Mormons are Christians
55% of likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa believe a Mormon is a Christian while 45% think a Mormon is not a Christian, or they are unsure.
Earlier this month, the same proportions shared these views. A majority of likely Republican caucus-goers — 55% — reported a Mormon was a Christian while 45% thought the opposite or were unsure.
- While Romney — 30% — is ahead among those who think a Mormon is a Christian, Paul — 20% — edges Santorum — 18% — and Perry — 16% — among those who believe a Mormon is not a Christian or are unsure. Gingrich receives 14% of these participants compared with 13% for Romney.
Obama’s Job Approval Rating at 45%
Voters divide about President Obama’s job approval rating. 45% of registered voters in Iowa approve of the job the president is doing in office while 43% disapprove, and 12% are unsure.
Views of the president’s performance in office have flipped. In NBC News/Marist’s previous survey in Iowa, 43% approved while 46% disapproved. 12%, at the time, were unsure.
With time counting down to the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, are there more twists and turns ahead?
The Marist Poll’s John Sparks visits with Marist Poll Analyst and syndicated political columnist Carl Leubsdorf who writes a weekly column for The Dallas Morning News about the latest trends in the 2012 campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.
Listen to the interview below.
Carl, it’s less than a month until the Iowa caucuses, and according to the latest Marist Poll there have been some changes. But before we talk about those changes, I’ve got to ask you: Which is more important to a candidate, Iowa or New Hampshire?
Well, it depends which candidate, I think, because for certain of the candidates for the group of — that we call the conservatives in this race, they’re all conservative, but basically who have been jockeying all year for position, and I’m talking about Speaker Gingrich, Governor Perry, Representative Bachman, in particular Herman Cain because he’s not there anymore, and to a lesser degree Ron Paul, Iowa is more important because it’s going to establish the pecking order among those people. In effect, we’ve had sort of two primaries going on, the — on one side, the establishment side, we’ve had Romney and the two former governors, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, and on the other side, we’ve had the other candidates. So, among the other candidates, they’re jockeying for position, and Iowa is extremely important because of the nature of the electorate, quite conservative. It’s a caucus system which encourages activists, so… But for Governor Romney, while there’s some importance in Iowa, the key thing for him is to win New Hampshire and win it decisively so that the media does not write: Well he won, but he didn’t meet expectations because he needs to use New Hampshire where he has a summer home and where he spends a lot of time as a board to sort of propel himself into the primaries in South Carolina and Florida.
Well, let’s talk about Iowa first since it comes first. The caucuses are January 3rd, and the latest Marist Poll has Newt Gingrich on top with 26%, followed by Mitt Romney at 18% and Ron Paul at 17%. Now Marist Poll Director Lee Miringoff says, “Hold on tight for further twists and turns.” Carl, do you think we could see more changes between now and January the 3rd?
Well, historically there have been a lot of changes in the last six weeks, and one thing I’ve been advising everyone that I’ve talked to and probably have discussed in these interviews previously, is that Iowa tends to firm up in the last month to six weeks. There are a lot of changes near the end, and the way it stands in August or in June probably isn’t going to be the way it’s going to end up, and that, in fact, has happened with the emergence of Speaker Gingrich as the leader there. It’s going to be interesting. I don’t know whether he can maintain it. It’s a shorter period he has to maintain it than some of the others who’ve come up. There’s the question: If he doesn’t maintain it, who would get his votes since just about everyone of his rivals among that group has been up there earlier.
Ron Paul is an interesting and sort of a separate phenomenon. He has a very fervent following, a lot of it young people. He’s got a solid vote, which is I would rate at 10-to-12%. But the latest poll is, not only the Marist Poll but the two others that were taken, show his numbers coming up in Iowa, so he’s clearly a contender for first place.
And the third player near the top of the poll, Governor Romney, has not spent that much time in Iowa. He spent a lot of time four years ago. He definitely has a following. We have to remember that while the Iowa Republican Party and likely caucus attendees are pretty conservative, maybe a quarter to a third of them are more moderate and more establishment, and Romney will do very well there whether he spends a lot of time in Iowa or not. I found interesting in these last polls, and we’ll find out later if it was meaningful, Romney’s numbers appear to have come down in Iowa for no particular reason, and this is the phenomenon we saw four years ago that the more he campaigned in a place, the less well he did, and people forget that at one point he was the leader in both Iowa and New Hampshire four years ago, and he ended up winning neither. So, whether we’re seeing that phenomenon in the fact that he’s dropped from the mid 20s into the upper teens (inaudible) polling caucuses is very difficult and finding likely attendees.
Listen to Part 1 of the Interview:
You know, Carl, second choices might tell us something because Herman Cain was still in the race when the Marist Poll was taken, and 28% of Cain’s supporters said that Gingrich was their second choice, followed by Paul and Romney with each 19%.
Well, I think the general assumption has been that Cain’s vote is… more of it will go to Gingrich than to anyone else. They’re both from Georgia. They both had some affinity on the issues. They’re quite… There are a few suggestions that Cain will in fact endorse Gingrich fairly soon, so that’s not surprising. In a way, the thing that Romney most fears is the consolidation of the conservative vote behind one candidate early in the game. Romney was counting on the fact that the conservative vote would stay very divided, and, in fact, in a very divided conservative vote, Romney with say 25% might win the Iowa caucuses. But if the vote begins to consolidate in Iowa behind one person, then, at the moment that appears to be Gingrich, that’s a problem for a candidate like Romney who has shown great difficulty in getting above about a quarter of the vote everywhere except in New Hampshire.
The Marist Poll showed that among caucus goers who consider themselves Tea Party or conservative and Evangelical Christians, Gingrich gets 35% compared to only 11% for Romney.
Well, that’s not Romney’s electorate, but the… I didn’t notice what percentage in your poll was people who consider themselves conservatives as opposed to moderate or however it’s described in the poll, and maybe it wasn’t asked. But I said, the assumption has been about two-thirds of the caucus electorate or maybe a little more would be Tea Party people, Right-To-Lifers, Christian conservatives, the various factions that make up the right side of the Republican Party, and that is not a group that where Romney is going to do very well.
Listen to Part 2:
You know, I think it’s always interesting, polling people and asking them why they vote like they do, and in Iowa, three in ten that are likely to be caucus goers tell us they want a candidate who is closest to them on issues – 29% say the candidate who shares their values is a key, and that’s flip-flopped a month ago. Any significance to this that now there’s…
Well, I think it seems to be fewer of them are saying that the first choice would be someone they think that can win, and actually we’ve seen in the some of the polls lately, more people think that Gingrich can win than think Romney can win. Romney has not… Romney has run this very buttoned up campaign where he tries to avoid the other candidates, where he behaves like the front-runner, where he straddles the issues and tries to say as little as possible, and when you combine that with his bland personality and the fact that he doesn’t have much of a persona, I think it’s hurt him, and I think it’s, you know, Gingrich has emerged as a more dynamic candidate, as a candidate who could get in Obama’s face. I mean, the thing that Republicans want most is to beat President Obama. They want a candidate who will stick it to him in the debates and who will be outspoken, and I think they see Romney is not able to do that. So, in the other candidates, and I say Gingrich is the favorite of the moment, they see ones who both agree with them and can be aggressive against Obama.
It’s interesting that you mention the general election. When Iowans turn to the general election, Obama ties Ron Paul, but he defeats Gingrich in Iowa 47% to 37% and he defeats Romney 46% to 39%.
That’s interesting. That’s especially interesting because Iowans have been subjected to a steady barrage of anti-Obama rhetoric. The president’s been there a couple of times, but since there is no Democratic primary, most of the — most of what’s coming out in politics is Republicans, and most of what they’re doing is attacking Obama, and for Obama’s numbers to hold up that well is probably a good sign for him from the Fall that I think it’s the calculation of the Obama campaign at this point that in a relatively close election where they have a reasonable chance to win, Iowa would be one of those states that the president would be able to carry. It’s considered one of the states definitely in play. It was carried by, I guess, by Bush in ’04 and by Obama in ’08, but that is not a great sign for the Republicans, and there’s some sense, and there’s a new Pew Poll on this too, that what’s going on in the Republican Party has actually hurt the party somewhat. Whether that will have a long-term affect, we don’t know.
Listen to Part 3:
Carl, organization has always been an important factor in the campaign. Is it still an important factor, especially in Iowa?
Well, it’s important in Iowa because in order to vote, you have to go to a caucus in your precinct, and there are 2,400 precincts in Iowa, and the weather in January when this takes place is often not very good, and traditionally, the way you won in Iowa is you set up a structure in every county, you said the 99 counties and then a lot of the towns, to get people out to the caucuses. I think that’s going to be less of a factor. If it is a big factor, Speaker Gingrich will be in big trouble because he doesn’t have much of an organization there. Ron Paul’s got a perfect organization out there supposedly, and Mitt Romney has one because he had one four years ago. But, this campaign has really been fought out in the televised debates. That’s what’s really driven the race and have gotten the most attention, and the flubs of the various candidates like Governor Perry’s problem, naming the third department he would get rid of or outside issues like the problem Mr. Cain had with various women have really driven the narrative of this campaign, and television advertising’s about to start really full scale in Iowa, but I don’t think that’s the major factor either. I would guess organization will be less important. But if we wake up on caucus morning and Newt Gingrich is in fourth place, then we’ll know organization was more important than we think it is, but I think it’s been reduced a lot. Another factor on the organization side is there’s a difference between the Democratic caucuses and the Republican caucuses in Iowa. In the Democratic caucuses, they have a system where if you get — if someone has less than 15%, their support doesn’t count. The caucuses are precinct caucuses. They elect delegates to the county conventions, which eventually this will get to a state convention. In the Democrats, they all line up for the different candidates in different corners of the room. Anyone who’s got under 15%, his candidate is out, and those people can go join one of the other groups, and you really need organization to do that. The Republicans have a straight vote. It’s like a straw poll. When they arrive at the caucus, they vote for one of the candidates, and that’s how the delegates are allocated to the county then. That’s much easier. It’s more like a regular election than a primary than like a caucus, and if they don’t want to stay for the discussion of the issues and all that, they can go back home as soon as they vote. The Democrats, you got to stay awhile. So, it’s another factor that reduces the importance of organization in this election.
Listen to Part 4:
Let’s go from Iowa to New Hampshire. The New Hampshire primary comes a week after the Iowa caucuses, and the latest Marist Poll shows that in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney is in the lead 39% to 23% over Gingrich, but that lead has been cut in half since last month’s Marist Poll in New Hampshire. Any significance there?
Yeah, I think a couple of interesting things there. One, Romney has steadily been… I think most of the fact that it’s been cut in half is probably because Gingrich has gained and less that Romney has been consistently in most polls in the neighborhood of 40%. And the fact is, if he gets 40% in the primaries, he’s almost certainly going to win. One thing… the biggest caution on New Hampshire is that the day after the Iowa caucuses, all the numbers you’ve seen so far in New Hampshire will be worthless because the numbers will change according to what happens in Iowa. It happens every year, you see a real change, and the fact that the primaries are only — and the caucus in Iowa and the primary is in New Hampshire are only week apart means that there can be a big affect of what happens in Iowa. What that means is that the winner in Iowa will get a boost in New Hampshire. Now, if it’s Gingrich, and he’s already surpassed 20%, that could put him up near the 30% level. And, unless Romney comes out of Iowa with a feeling well he did okay considering he didn’t campaign much there, his numbers might come down a little bit. Now if Romney’s numbers come down a little bit, that votes probably not going to go to Gingrich, it’s probably going to go to Jon Huntsman who is the former Governor of Utah, has concentrated in New Hampshire, and although his record is equally as conservative as the other candidates, his more moderate manner and the fact that he’s not spent all of his time bashing President Obama gives him an appeal to the independents. Remember in New Hampshire, independents can vote in the primary, and with no Democratic primary, we expect a lot of independents to vote there. Not all independents are moderate to liberal to be sure, but I think there are more of those than arch conservatives. So, what you’ll see in… Now if Romney comes in to say a strong second in Iowa, his numbers will hold up very well, but if comes in a weak third, he may suffer some erosion there, and certainly the winner in Iowa will get a bump up, so you’ll see a change there by the Thursday or Friday of that week, and it’ll determine whether anyone actually has a chance of beating Romney. The great fear I think from the Romney point of view is that he survives to win, but he wins so narrowly that it does not give him a boost for the later primaries. As I said before, New Hampshire is extremely important to Romney. He was governor of a neighboring state. He has a summer home there. He’s spent a lot of time there. He really needs to have a strong victory there, or he’s going to have real problems when the race moves south.
Interesting that you mention the independent voters in New Hampshire. Romney leads Gingrich by 12 points among Republicans in New Hampshire, but when it comes to independents, his lead opens up to 21 points over Gingrich.
Well that’s exactly right because the two candidates who the independents are most likely to vote for or like more than will vote for are Romney, considered the moderate in this race. Remember, he’s taken all these conservative positions, but a lot of people don’t believe he really believes them, including a lot of conservatives, so he will get a lot of that independent vote, but if he falls or has seen trouble, it’ll go to Huntsman I think.
Listen to Part 5:
According to Marist, the New Hampshire voters are firmly committed to their candidate – 49% say they’re strongly committed while 31% report they’re somewhat committed, whatever that means, but that may tell us something…
That’s more than in Iowa is and… that’s more than in Iowa that it’s… they’re less committed, I think.
Correct, but I wondering if this might tell us something about what the general election might be like in New Hampshire. There’s something that’s interesting about New Hampshire. Marist has President Obama losing to Romney in New Hampshire by only three points, 46/43, but they have the president defeating Ron Paul by only two points, and they have the president defeating Gingrich by ten points and yet…
I was going to say – and yet a majority of New Hampshire voters, 52%, say they don’t approve of Obama’s performance.
Well, I think if you compare the two states, Obama has much less chance of carrying New Hampshire than Iowa, especially if his opponent is Romney who is — we said is well known there and has ties there. He is not popular in New Hampshire. All the polls have shown that consistently. He’ll have a difficult time carrying New Hampshire. I would bet if you could get an Obama person to say what was the map that they would have assuming that they barely got over the 270 mark needed for an electoral vote, what’s on that map? I would guess that Iowa would be on it and New Hampshire would not.
One of the interesting things in New Hampshire that I should mention is the influence of the Union Leader newspaper. For years, the Union Leader, which is the only statewide paper in New Hampshire, has played an outsized role in New Hampshire Republican politics. It’s… the person that has supported hasn’t always won, but a recent study showed that, I think by Nate Silver of the New York Times, was that the endorsement of the Union Leader is definitely worth a number of points. That candidates who were endorsed by the Union Leader gained strength afterwards. A couple weeks ago they endorsed Speaker Gingrich as their candidate. That’s undoubtedly one of the factors in his rise to 23% in the Marist Poll, and it will be a factor because when the Union Leader endorses someone, they don’t just write one editorial and then go back to their knitting. There will be more front page editorials in the Union Leader, and not only will they spend some time supporting Gingrich, but they will be beating up on the candidates they don’t want, and number one on that list is Mitt Romney. So, that is going to part of the dynamic here. It will help whoever emerges from Iowa as the leader of that conservative group, and, at the moment, it looks like it will be Speaker Gingrich.
Carl, I’ve got to ask you with everything that’s going on in my business, people are not reading newspapers as much, so does the Union Leader still have the influence it once had?
Well, you know it’s interesting in New Hampshire. It’s the closest thing to a statewide newspaper. Television, there’s only really one major television station in New Hampshire, WMUR in Manchester. Now, of course, they get news on cable, and they get a lot of Boston TV in New Hampshire, but New Hampshire outlets — New Hampshire has an interesting group of newspapers. I know a fair amount about it because my son, Ben, works for the Concord Monitor. There’s a string of local regional papers in New Hampshire, most of them dailies but some weeklies, and which have a fair amount of readership in their local area. The Union Leader has more influence. Manchester is the biggest city in New Hampshire. It has a bigger readership, and also what the Union Leader does gets trumpeted by TV. It’s always a big thing. What some of the smaller papers do doesn’t get as much as publicity. So, I think it’s less than it once was, but all signs are it does have influence and especially on the Republican side.
Carl, it’s always interesting to talk presidential politics with you. We’re getting to that time when the rubber meets the road, and I look forward to visiting with you again real soon.
Listen to Part 6:
With less than one month to go until the Iowa caucus, Newt Gingrich has surged to the top of the leaderboard in the state. Gingrich outdistances his closest rivals, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, by 8 and 9 percentage points, respectively.
Here is how the contest stands among likely Republican caucus-goers including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate:
- 26% for Newt Gingrich
- 18% for Mitt Romney
- 17% for Ron Paul
- 9% for Herman Cain
- 9% for Rick Perry
- 5% for Michele Bachmann
- 5% for Rick Santorum
- 2% for Jon Huntsman
- 9% are undecided
“As the roller coaster picks up speed in the month leading up to the Iowa caucus, Newt Gingrich has moved into the lead car,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Hold on tight for any further twists and turns.”
The Republican field has changed in Iowa. In October, 26% of likely Republican caucus-goers including leaners supported Romney. One in five — 20% — favored Cain, and 12% backed Paul. Bachmann and Perry each received 11%, 5% were behind Gingrich while Santorum garnered 3%. One percent was for Huntsman. At that time, one in ten — 10% — was undecided.
If Cain drops out of the race, based upon the second choice of his supporters, the contest among likely Republican caucus-goers including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate is now Gingrich at 28% followed by Paul and Romney with 19%. 10% favor Perry, 7% support Bachmann, 6% back Santorum, and 2% are for Huntsman. Nine percent remain undecided.
Among the larger pool of potential Republican caucus-goers including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, Gingrich has a 7 percentage point lead over Romney. 25% favor Gingrich, 18% are for Romney, and 16% back Paul. Perry and Cain each receive the support of 9% of these potential participants. Five percent rally for Bachmann while Santorum has the backing of 4%. Two percent are for Huntsman, and 11% are undecided.
- Gingrich leads Romney, 34% to 20%, among likely Republican caucus-goers who are just conservative including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate. Among those who are very conservative, it’s Gingrich 29% to 10% for Romney. Looking at those who support the Tea Party, 32% support Gingrich, 11% support Romney, and 16% support Paul.
- Among caucus-goers who are Tea Party supporters, conservative, and Evangelical Christians, Gingrich receives 35% compared with 11% for Romney. Cain receives 14%, Paul garners 12%, and Santorum takes 10% among these voters.
Four in Ten Strongly Support Choice of Candidate
40% of likely Republican caucus-goers say they strongly support their choice of candidate while the same proportion — 40% — somewhat support their pick. However, nearly one in five — 19% — might change their mind, and 1% is unsure.
When NBC News/Marist last reported this question in October, 41% reported they strongly supported their choice of candidate, 36% were somewhat committed to their pick, and 20% said they might cast their ballot for someone else. Three percent, at the time, were unsure.
- A majority of likely Republican caucus-goers who back Paul — 53% — are strongly committed to their candidate. 43% of those who favor Gingrich and 38% who are behind Romney express the same level of support for their pick.
Gingrich, Romney Top List as Second Best
Nearly one in five likely Republican caucus-goers — 19% — report Gingrich is their second choice for the nomination while 17% select Romney. Bachmann garners 12% while Cain and Perry each receive 11%. Paul is perceived to be the next best choice by 10% while 8% have the same perception about Santorum. Three percent say Jon Huntsman is their second choice for the Republican presidential nomination, and 9% are undecided.
- Nearly three in ten likely Republican caucus-goers who support Gingrich — 29% — say Romney is their second choice for the nomination while 43% of Romney’s backers report Gingrich places second in their minds.
Gingrich Viewed as Acceptable Candidate by Majority, Romney Falls Short
Gingrich is the only candidate in the GOP field who is considered by a majority of likely Republican caucus-goers to be a good fit for the Republican nomination. 54% of likely Republican caucus-goers think Gingrich is an acceptable candidate. An additional 27% say he is acceptable but with reservations, and 16% believe he is an unacceptable choice. Four percent are unsure.
Romney, however, faces a challenge among likely Republican caucus-goers. Fewer than half — 46% — think Romney fits the bill while 28% say he will do, but they have reservations about him. Almost one in four — 24% — believes he is not an acceptable choice for the top of the GOP ticket, and 3% are unsure.
When it comes to Paul, 38% report he would be a good fit, and 34% agree but with some concerns. 26% say he is an unacceptable nominee, and 3% are unsure.
Controversial Campaign Issues
When it comes to positions on key issues, just what are caucus-goers willing to accept in a candidate? 87% of likely Republican caucus-goers believe it is unacceptable for a nominee to tolerate Iran building a nuclear weapon. Eight percent say it is acceptable, and 5% are unsure.
More than eight in ten likely Republican caucus-goers — 81% — think it is not acceptable to allow illegal immigrants to obtain in-state tuition. 14% believe it is, and 6% are unsure.
Many likely Republican caucus-goers — 63% — find it unacceptable for a GOP nominee to support an individual mandate for health care insurance while more than one in four — 28% – do not take issue with that stance. Nine percent are unsure.
A majority of likely Republican caucus-goers — 56% — report it is unacceptable for a nominee to have earned millions of dollars advising Freddie Mac. About one-third — 33% — find it to be acceptable in a nominee, and 10% are unsure.
A majority of likely Republican caucus-goers — 54% — also find it problematic for a nominee to have been accused of sexual harassment. Nearly four in ten — 38% — do not think this is problematic, and 8% are unsure.
Likely caucus-goers divide about whether or not it is acceptable for a candidate to support limited amnesty for some illegal immigrants. 47% say it is unacceptable while 46% believe it is acceptable. Seven percent are unsure.
Issues and Values Top List of Participants’ Priorities
More than three in ten likely Republican caucus-goers — 31% — want a candidate who is closest to them on the issues while 29% say a candidate who shares their values is key. Electability is the most important factor for 21% of likely Republican caucus-goers while 16% would like a candidate who has the experience to govern. Two percent are unsure.
In NBC News/Marist’s October survey, 30% said a candidate who shares their values was most important. A similar proportion — 29% — reported someone who had the same positions on the issues was their priority while one in five — 20% — wanted a candidate who could defeat President Obama in the general election. Experience, at that time, was the key factor for 17%, and 4% were unsure.
- Gingrich leads among likely Republican caucus-goers including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate who believe experience is the most important quality in a candidate. 36% of these caucus-goers support Gingrich compared with 26% who back Romney.
- Gingrich — 38% — also has the advantage among likely Republican caucus-goers who think electability is the key while Romney receives the support of 25% of these participants.
- Among those who think shared values is the priority, there is little consensus. 17% throw their support behind Paul, and the same proportion — 17% — support Gingrich. Romney and Cain each garner 12%.
- Paul — 25% — and Gingrich — 22% — vie for the lead among those who think a candidate’s position on the issues is most important. This compares with Romney who receives 14%.
Romney Out of Step with Iowa GOP Ideology
Romney does not match up well ideologically with Iowa’s likely Republican caucus-goers. A majority of likely caucus participants — 53% — perceive Romney to be a moderate while nearly one in five — 18% — thinks he is a liberal. Just 19% report he is a conservative, and 10% are unsure. However, 68% of likely Republican caucus-goers describe themselves as either conservative or very conservative.
Mormons are Christians, Says Majority
A majority of likely Republican caucus-goers — 55% — say a Mormon is a Christian while 45% report a Mormon is not, or they are unsure about it.
- While Romney receives the support of 23% of likely caucus-goers who say a Mormon is a Christian, he garners just 12% among likely caucus participants who do not share this view about his faith or are unsure.
“The Donald” Has Little Pull among Likely Republican Iowa Caucus-Goers
A plurality of likely Republican caucus-goers — 44% — says a Trump endorsement would not affect their vote while 32% say such a backing would make them less likely to vote for a candidate. About one in five — 21% — report it would make them more likely to vote for that candidate, and 3% are unsure.
Politics or Pigskin?
But, does it all matter? The BCS Allstate Sugar Bowl will be held on the night of the Iowa caucus. So, how many likely Republican caucus-goers could be glued to their televisions rather than attending the caucus? Just less than half of likely Republican caucus-goers — 48% — say they watch either a great deal or a good amount of college football while a majority — 52% — reports they are not avid fans.
- Gingrich’s supporters are more likely to be college football fans than those who back Romney or Paul. Gingrich receives the support of 30% of avid college football fans who are likely to attend the GOP caucus compared with 19% for Romney and 16% for Paul.
- Among likely Republican caucus-goers who are not avid college football fans, the race tightens. Gingrich receives 23% of the vote to 18% for Paul and 16% for Romney.
Obama Ties Paul…Leads Rest of GOP Field, But Only Has Majority against Bachmann
In hypothetical contests with potential Republican challengers, President Barack Obama bests his competition with one exception.
Against Paul, 42% of registered voters in Iowa support Obama while the same proportion — 42% — backs Paul. A notable 16% are undecided. Paul attracts 15% of Iowa’s Democrats and leads President Obama 42% to 35% among independent voters. Paul also has a 14 percentage point advantage over Obama among voters under 45 years of age. There is a gender gap. Paul outpaces the president among men by 11 percentage points, and President Obama outdistances Paul among women by 10 percentage points.
In a matchup against Romney, the president has a seven percentage point lead. 46% of registered voters support Mr. Obama while 39% favor Romney. 15% are undecided.
Against Gingrich, the president garners 47% to 37% for Gingrich, a 10 percentage point lead. 16% are undecided.
The president has an 11 percentage point advantage against Perry. Here, 48% back Obama while 37% are for Perry, and 15% are undecided.
When paired against Cain, half of Iowa’s electorate — 50% — supports President Obama compared with 32% for Cain, giving Mr. Obama an 18 percentage point lead. 18% are undecided.
The president receives majority support against Bachmann. In this hypothetical contest, Obama receives 54% to Bachmann’s 31%, an advantage of 23 percentage points. 15% are undecided.
Iowa Voters Divide about Obama’s Job Approval Rating
43% of registered voters in the state approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing in office while 46% disapprove. 12% are unsure.
In NBC News/Marist’s previous survey in Iowa, 42% of registered voters in Iowa gave the president high marks while 47% gave his job performance a thumbs-down. 11%, at the time, were unsure.
Lee Miringoff discusses the GOP field on MSNBC:
Mitt Romney and Herman Cain are in a tight battle as they vie for the support of Iowa’s likely Republican caucus-goers. And, with a notable proportion yet to choose a candidate, the race in the Hawkeye State is very competitive.
Here is how the contest stands among likely Republican caucus-goers:
- 23% for Mitt Romney
- 20% for Herman Cain
- 11% for Ron Paul
- 10% for Rick Perry
- 10% for Michele Bachmann
- 4% for Newt Gingrich
- 3% for Rick Santorum
- 1% for Jon Huntsman
- 1% for Gary Johnson
- 16% are undecided
“Right now, Iowa is shaping up as a two candidate contest. But, caucus participation is always the key in this low-turnout environment,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Watch for the strength of the candidates’ field organizations to move poll numbers and determine the eventual winner.”
How does the contest shape up when those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate are considered? 26% of likely Republican caucus-goers including those who are leaning toward a candidate support Romney. One in five — 20% — favor Cain, and 12% back Paul. Bachmann and Perry each receive 11%, 5% are behind Gingrich while Santorum garners 3%. One percent is for Huntsman while the same proportion — 1% — throws their support behind Johnson. One in ten — 10% — is still undecided.
Iowa’s pool of potential participants for Iowa’s Republican Presidential Caucus is more undecided. 23% are for Romney, 16% support Cain, and 12% choose Paul. 10% back Perry while the same proportion — 10% — favors Bachmann. Four percent rally for Gingrich, 2% support Santorum, and Huntsman and Johnson each receive 1%. A notable one in five — 20% — is undecided.
- Herman Cain — 31% — leads among likely Republican caucus-goers who support the Tea Party.
- 41% of likely Republican caucus-goers who strongly support the Tea Party back Herman Cain.
- Nearly one in four likely Republican caucus-goers who plan to participate for the first time — 24% — support Romney. 16% are behind Cain, and 14% back Paul.
- Among likely Republican caucus-goers who are Evangelical Christians, Cain receives 24% of the vote to 23% for Romney.
- 24% of Conservative likely Republican caucus-goers support Cain while 21% back Romney.
Slightly More than Four in Ten Strongly Support Candidate
There is plenty of time for movement within this Republican field. Among likely Republican caucus-goers, only 41% report they strongly support their choice of candidate, including 48% of Tea Party supporters. 36% say they somewhat support their pick, and 20% might change their mind. Three percent are unsure.
- 56% of likely Republican caucus-goers who support Cain are firmly committed to him. 29% of likely Republican caucus-goers who back Romney have a similar level of commitment.
What Matters Most? Values and Issues Top Check List
30% of Iowa’s likely Republican caucus-goers say they want a GOP candidate who shares their values while a similar proportion — 29% — prefer one who is closest to their position on the issues. One in five — 20% — say a candidate who can defeat President Obama in the general election tops their list of factors for a candidate while 17% want someone with experience. Four percent are unsure.
- Among likely Republican caucus-goers who think a candidate’s position on the issues is the most important, Cain and Paul each receive the support of 21%. 17% of these voters are behind Romney.
- 24% of likely Republican caucus-goers who cite shared values as the key factor support Cain while 21% back Romney.
- Looking at likely Republican caucus-goers who think a Republican candidate should be able to defeat the president, 26% rally for Cain while 24% tout Romney.
- Romney receives the support of a plurality — 42% — of likely Republican caucus-goers who say experience trumps all other qualities in a Republican candidate.
Competitive Race Between Obama and Romney…Obama Outpaces Perry
In a hypothetical contest between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the two are neck and neck among registered voters in Iowa. Obama receives 43% of the vote to Romney’s 40%. 17% of registered voters are undecided. In 2008, Obama carried Iowa handily against John McCain.
When matched against Rick Perry, Obama leads 46% to 37% for Perry. Nearly one in five — 18% — are undecided.
- Independents make the difference. Romney and Obama are competitive among this group — 39% for Romney and 37% for Obama. Obama, however, leads Perry among this group with 41% supporting Obama and 34% backing Perry.
Obama’s Approval Rating at 42% in Iowa…More Than Two-Thirds View Nation on Wrong Path
Just 42% of registered voters in Iowa approve of the job President Obama is doing in office while 47% disapprove, and 11% are unsure.
- Not surprisingly, 74% of Democrats approve of the president’s job performance while 85% of Republicans disapprove. Nearly half of independents — 48% — are dissatisfied with how Mr. Obama is doing in office.
68% of adults in Iowa believe the nation is moving in the wrong direction while just 21% think it is moving on the proper path. 11% are unsure.
To read the MSNBC story: Romney leads in Iowa and New Hampshire
The Marist Poll’s Lee Miringoff appears on MSNBC:
The NBC News/Marist Poll for January’s GOP New Hampshire Primary (it really won’t be in December, will it?) and the Iowa Caucus reveal some very interesting political tidbits. Sure, we’re still several months away from these much awaited events but likely New Hampshire voters and likely Iowa caucus-goers are picking sides.
No big surprise so far in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. New Hampshire neighbor Mitt Romney has a wide lead over the GOP field. Iowa may eventually be the table setter for whom Romney has to take on in New Hampshire. But, no clear challenger has emerged at present.
The only danger sign for Romney in New Hampshire is that only 38% of likely voters are firmly committed to a candidate. 45% who back Romney are firmly committed to him. Better than the average, but not a lock.
Iowa, however, is a different ballgame, and represents more precarious terrain for Romney. Romney is well-known but finds himself in a close battle among likely Iowa caucus-goers with Herman Cain. Is Cain enjoying his 15 days of fame, or is this where the anybody-but-Romney caucus-goers coalesce?
Like New Hampshire, Hawkeye staters are still lukewarm to the field. Only 41% of likely caucus attendees are firmly committed to their choice. But, 56% of Cain’s backers are solidly behind him compared to only 29% of Romney’s supporters. That has to concern the Romney camp. Also, of the four factors motivating likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers, the good news for Romney is he has the support of the plurality of those who say experience matters most. The bad news for Romney is that values, issues, and electability count more to likely Iowa caucus-goers than the candidate’s resume and, in each of these other factors, Romney has not established an advantage.
And, then there’s the Tea Party. 50% of likely Iowa caucus attendees identify with the Tea Party. Cain leads Romney by 31% to 15% with these voters. But, among likely Iowa caucus-goers who strongly support the Tea Party, which amounts to one in five likely participants, Cain’s advantage over Romney grows to 41% to 7%. This also has to be a chief worry for team Romney. It is something we will be watching closely in future NBC News/Marist Polls.
Senator Barack Obama is ahead of Senator John McCain by 8 percentage points among Iowa’s registered voters and has a 10 percentage point margin among likely voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate. With about one week to go until Election Day, 48% of registered voters in Iowa support Obama compared with 40% for McCain.