Iowa, New Hampshire:
Below the Surface

July 28, 2015 — Over the weekend, NBC/Marist College released their recent polls (July 14-21) conducted in the first two presidential caucus/primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, hence providing some interesting answers to a few new questions.

The pollsters underscore that the sampling period covers the time both before and after Donald Trump made his highly publicized comments about Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) war record. Unlike many of the recent public polls that featured extremely small polling national polling samples, the individual respondent universes for these two surveys are acceptable (Iowa: 1,042 residents; 919 registered voters; 342 likely Democratic Caucus attenders, 320 likely Republican Caucus attenders; New Hampshire: 1,037 residents; 910 registered voters; 329 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters, 401 likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters).

The glimpse provided between the registered voters and the overall resident sample is also significant. In each state, there is only a negligible difference between how registered and non-registered voter responded.

While the ballot test results are providing similar results to other publicly-released New Hampshire and Iowa polls -– Donald Trump leading in New Hampshire; Gov. Scott Walker ahead in Iowa; Hillary Clinton easily leading Bernie Sanders in both places -– the NBC/Marist pollsters delved more deeply into issues and attitudes, thus giving us a better understanding of where the electorates in these two important states stand.

The most significant change in the ballot test responses is Trump moving into second place in Iowa, cutting Gov. Walker’s previously larger lead to 19-17 percent. Jeb Bush finished third (12 percent) in the Hawkeye State. No other candidate reached double-digits. The highest single-digit contender (8 percent) was Dr. Ben Carson. But, even these numbers, with again no one breaking the 20-percent barrier, still say that virtually any Republican candidate could yet move to the top.

For the Democrats, the most interesting ballot test info pertains to the change in responses with and without Vice President Joe Biden added as a candidate. In Iowa, he pulls only 10 percent, almost all of which comes from Hillary Clinton’s support base. Without Biden in the race, Clinton scores 55 percent among the likely Democratic Caucus attenders. With him, she drops to 49 percent. Bernie Sanders’ numbers remain almost constant: 26 percent without Biden, 25 percent with him.

The ratios are almost the same in New Hampshire. Here, Biden scores 12 percent when included on the list of candidates. Without him listed, Clinton tops Sen. Sanders 47-34 percent. With Biden, her margin drops to 42-32 percent.

The bottom line from both surveys, at least at this point in time, illustrates that VP Biden is not any particular threat in either state.

Issue wise, President Obama’s job approval is upside down in both states when asked of the entire electorate in each place. The top four issue segments are: economy and job creation; national security and terrorism; deficit and government spending; and healthcare. The order is mostly consistent for both parties. The biggest exception is healthcare moving to second place in importance among Democrats.

Huge differences occur on the immigration issue, climate change, and religious value questions. Questions about having both a Clinton and a Bush again appearing on a national ballot are also asked.

As we have seen in other places, respondents from the two parties view immigration completely differently. Both in New Hampshire and Iowa, Republicans strongly oppose a pathway to citizenship and/or legal status for “illegal or undocumented immigrants”, while Democrats overwhelmingly favor the position.

Both parties place a large emphasis on the candidates’ position about job creation and growing the economy. Democrats are less concerned about government spending and the deficit. Republicans want Obamacare repealed; Democrats are intense about keeping and expanding the program.

In both places, Republicans feel climate change is not a major issue, while a significant segment of Democrats do. Among Republicans, only one percent of Iowa respondents, for example, listed climate change as an important issue while 23 percent of Democrats believe it is a substantial problem.

Conversely, about three times as many Republicans in both places think the religious and moral issues are of strong importance as compared to the Democratic responses.

Interestingly, one of the final questions asked whether the respondents agree that we’ve “ … had enough Bushes and Clintons running for the White House and it’s time to give someone else a chance.” In Iowa, by a margin of 61-34 percent, both registered and non-registered voters agreed with the statement. Turning to the Granite State, the agreement margin was 55-38% among registered voters and an almost identical 56-38% among unregistered respondents.

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