Iowa – Below the Surface

Sept. 2, 2015 — The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics released a new installment to their regular polling series, and it’s their underlying questions that provide us with the most interesting information. The survey, again conducted by the Des Moines-based Selzer & Company, interviewed 404 likely Democratic caucus attenders and 400 likely Republican participants over the Aug. 23-26 period.

Like most polls currently in the public domain, the respective ballot tests show Donald Trump breaking out for the Republicans. Here, he posts a 23-18-8-8 percent lead over Dr. Ben Carson with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) each claiming a share of third place. For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton’s lead is dissipating as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is making significant gains. The results project him pulling to within single digits of former First Lady, 37-30 percent. Vice President Joe Biden, not yet a presidential contender, records 14 percent support.

The underlying points reveal a weakening Clinton, no doubt, but not to catastrophic proportions. Though her Iowa support is tepid when compared to the numbers she posted at the end of 2014, the base Democrats do not see her in a negative light.

All three of the major Democratic contenders, Clinton, Sanders, and Biden, posted virtually identical favorability ratios, with each touching the 70s on the positive score. Clinton has the highest unfavorable reading of the three, but it was only 19 percent.

The respondents’ lack of concern about Clinton’s email controversy and their expressed confidence in her ability to win the presidency should she successfully capture the Democratic nomination provided her with needed good news.

Sixty-one percent of polled Democrats said they believe the email issue is “not important”. Conversely, a combined total of 38 percent said the issue is “very important” (10 percent), “fairly important” (7 percent), or “just somewhat important” (21 percent).

Additionally, two-thirds of the Democratic universe (66 percent) say they are “mostly confident” she could win the general election once nominated. Almost a quarter of those surveyed (24 percent), however, said they were “mostly nervous” about her November 2016 prospects against the eventual GOP nominee.

The Republican respondents delivered two surprising data points. First, is Gov. Walker’s precipitous drop in what, heretofore, was one of his strongest states. From having a consistent double-digit lead through several Iowa polls, the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg data now projects him falling all the way to eight percent.

Trump’s rise and Walker’s fall appear inverted. While Trump has shot forward and virtually attracted all of the media attention for the last two months, Walker has been sucked into a vacuum. He hasn’t made any mistakes, but he’s clearly flailing in the Trump fall-out.

The second key point is the bombastic businessman’s stunning image reversal. According to Selzer & Company numbers, Trump now records a 61:35 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio among Iowa Republicans. For the first six months of the year, his index was an abysmal 27:63 percent.

The other rather surprising favorability statistic relates to Gov. Walker. Though he has lost more than half his previous support, his favorability rating is still second highest of those tested (behind only Ben Carson’s 79:8 percent) at 71:14 percent. It is surprising that someone who maintains such a positive image is hemorrhaging support. The Walker fall appears to be yet one more facet of the Trump phenomenon.

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