Tag Archives: Iowa

Two More Polls: Where Things Stand in Iowa

At this rate I’ll never get my grading done.

Two more polls just in and (fortunately!) they are consistent with my earlier analysis posted today.  The first poll is a Rasmussen automated survey conducted Dec. 28, and the second is a telephone survey by American Research Group (ARG) from Dec. 26-28 (both polls have a margin of error +/-4%).  For ease of interpretation I’ve put the five most recent Iowa polls in the following table. (Note, however, that the CNN poll took place with a day off for the Christmas holidays.)

Candidate Public Policy Polling (12. 26-27.11) CNN (12.21-24, 12.26-27.11) Insider Advantage(12.28.11) American Research Group (12.26-28.11) Rasmussen (12.28.11)
Romney 20% 25% 17.2% 22% 23%
Paul 24% 22% 17.3% 16% 22%
Gingrich 13% 14% 16.7% 17% 13%
Santorum 10% 16% 13.4% 11% 16%
Perry 10% 11% 10.5% 9% 13%
Bachmann 11% 9% 11.8% 8% 5%


Once you account for differences in sampling and the dates of these polls, they tell somewhat similar stories. Keeping in mind all the usual caveats about polling a caucus state, what do these more recent surveys suggest is happening in Iowa today, five days before voting?  I offer the following observations.

  1. Romney is going to get about 23% of the vote, give or take a few percentage points.  That is, he’ll finish close to what he did four years ago.  Whether that is enough to win depends on several other factors.  See below.
  2. Paul’s support, I think, may be softening just a bit, probably because of doubts, fueled by negative campaign ads, regarding his foreign policy views.  Note that his unfavorable ratings have risen in the last week and are now in negative numbers.  Of course, with him it all depends on the relevant turnout of independents and younger voters.   Will the college crowd be home for the winter break?  Will they turn out? We know that he has a core group of supporters who will show up no matter what.  But I don’t think that constitutes much more than 20% of likely voters.
  3. Gingrich seems to have weathered the avalanche of negative ads directed at him and is stabilized at about 16%.  In my view, he has a greater potential upside than either Romney or Gingrich, primarily because his support cuts across demographic and party lines.  His biggest problem is extremely high unfavorable ratings.  Much depends on whether his last-minute advertising pitch can swing voters his way.  He is now, finally, on the air with new television ads.  Unlike Romney and Paul, however, he lacks a campaign infrastructure for getting out the vote.
  4. Santorum seems to be benefitting from the “last Christian standing” dynamic; the evangelicals have danced with everyone else not named Mitt or Ron at least once (please, no touching on the dance floor), so it now appears to be Santorum’s turn.  He’s peaking at the right moment, has high favorable ratings (because no one has bothered to attack him) and could challenge for third place.
  5. Perry is a wildcard – he’s blanketed the state with advertising and has made a strong pitch for the conservative vote but it’s not clear that he’s attracting more than 12% support.
  6. Bachmann is in danger of getting winnowed.  The key question, for me, is whether her supporters peel off in the caucus room and switch to Santorum.  Note that unlike in Democratic caucusing in Iowa, where there’s plenty of jockeying for position, there’s not a lot persuasion that goes on in the Republican meetings, and the vote is by secret ballot.  So it’s a lot easier to dump the one you brought to the dance.

The results five days from now, it seems to me, hinge on two factors.  What is the relative percentage of independents (and even Democrats) that turn out?  And do the evangelicals coalesce behind a single candidate, or two, or three?  I think Romney’s and Paul’s support is what it is in the polls.   I’m less confident about the other four.

More as polling comes in.

Is Mitt It? The Pundits Say Yes, the Polls Say No

We are witnessing a fascinating struggle between the polling data in Iowa, and how Republican Party leaders and pundits are interpreting that data.  Yesterday, the National Journal ran this story under the headline “Romney: The New Frontrunner in Iowa”.   It linked to a number of print and online articles that collectively indicated Romney was poised to win the Jan. 3 caucus and position himself to close out the nomination contest shortly thereafter. Thus, Politico proclaimed that “Romney was in striking distance of Iowa Win.”    The Washington Post proclaimed  that Romney’s “stealth campaign” gave him a “real shot at winning Iowa.”   This Huffington Post piece  ran under the headline “Romney poised to do well in Iowa.”  The Hill opined that Romney “could lock up GOP nod with win at Iowa.”   The Los Angeles Times went so far as to claim that Romney could “win” Iowa even if he didn’t win there!  Josh Krashauer concludes his National Journal piece with this confident assertion:  “Make no mistake: If Romney wins the Iowa caucuses, he’s on a glide path to the Republican nomination.  And with newfound scrutiny over Paul’s racial record, Gingrich losing momentum and the evangelical base vote split between Bachmann, Perry and Santorum, it’s looking awfully likely that Romney will come away as the big winner on Jan. 3.”

Big Winner?  You might think this assessment and the accompanying flurry of news story touting Romney’s prospects are driven by recent polling data indicating that Romney was pulling ahead in Iowa, or at least that his poll numbers were on the rise there.  But you would be wrong.  The reality is that there are no signs of a Romney surge in Iowa.  At best one might argue that he’s climbed a couple of percentage points back to where he was a month ago, but even that’s uncertain, given the probabilistic nature of survey sampling.

Consider the latest Iowa poll released late yesterday by Insider Advantage.  It shows Romney at 17.2%, in a dead heat with Paul (17.3%) and Gingrich (16.7%).   (The bigger news in the poll is that Santorum has climbed to 4th, at 13.4%, which is consistent with yesterday’s CNN/ORC poll that had him third, with 16% of the polling support. More on that in a later post.) One week ago Insider Advantage had Romney at…. 18%.  Well, that’s one poll you say – surely he’s climbing in all the others?  Nope. PPP’s latest had Romney at 20% – exactly where he was a week before in the previous PPP poll.  Rasmussen?  The last two polls, again a week apart, have him at 23% and 25%.  Really the only poll that suggests any growth in Romney’s support is yesterday’s CNN poll, which has him at 25%, which is 5% more than its previous poll. That previous poll, however, dates back three weeks.

Indeed, right now Romney is at 21.8% in the RealClearPolitics composite polling tracker – which is almost exactly where he was a month ago and, in fact, about where he was last July!   Indeed, he’s on track to finish below the 25% he received in Iowa four years ago!   For all intents, despite several millions dollars of paid advertising, countless visits, endorsements by party leaders, and even a change in clothing (Mitt’s ditched the prep look and is now dressing down) Romney’s been treading water for four years in Iowa.  That’s the real story.

Look, Romney could very well finish first come Jan. 3 – but if current trends hold it won’t be because of a surge of support in the last two weeks of the race. Iowan voters show no signs of coming around to Mitt.  It will be because unlike in 2008, the Tea Party/evangelical voters who comprise more than 50% of the likely caucus voters didn’t coalesce behind a single alternative candidate.   Their failure to do so make it possible that Romney’s support will go down from 2008 – and yet he will finish first.

If that happens, it will be very interesting to see how the media spins the results.  For reasons that I think must be based on evaluations of candidate electability, the Republican party establishment  – by which I mean party leaders (see his endorsers) and their media counterparts (think Will, Brooks, and Krauthammer) – are completely in the tank for Romney, despite the fact that he has yet to demonstrate deep or broad support among hard-core Republican partisans.  There’s a dispute in the political science literature regarding whether the winning candidate gets a boost from Iowa.  (I’ll address this in a separate post.)  But it partly depends on media reactions and the expectations game.  If Mitt can’t increase his support in Iowa from four years ago, that suggests he’s not gaining strength as a candidate.  But that may not be how the media interprets the results.

By the way, the Insider Advantage poll released late yesterday showing a three-way tie in Iowa included 69% Republicans, 27% independents, and 3% Democrats – that’s a relatively low number of Republicans, which suggests the poll may be slightly understating Santorum’s support although it’s hard to be sure without an ideological breakdown as well.  The other interesting finding is what appears to be a gender gap in both Paul’s and Romney’s support;  Paul leads among men with 23% of the vote, but he gets only 12% among women.  Romney’s support is reversed; he receives the highest support among women, with 23%, but only gets 11% from men.  Gingrich, in contrast, polls equally well with both genders (17%).  Indeed, of the three front-runners, Gingrich shows the most consistent support across party, gender and age lines.   He comes in second among Republicans, second among Democrats and third among independents.  And while Paul draws disproportionally from those 44 years old and younger, and Romney’s core support is from the 45 and older crowd, Gingrich draws about evenly from all age groups.  Maybe Gingrich, and not Romney, is most electable?