Trump Ahead in Iowa; New Dem Numbers, Too

Aug. 12, 2015 — Public Policy Polling (Aug. 7-9; 619 usual Iowa Republican primary voters; 567 usual Iowa Democratic primary voters) surveyed the Hawkeye State electorate and found, as in all other places, that Donald Trump has pulled into a lead. The survey has a methodological issue, however.

The pollsters screened for “usual primary voters” and not likely caucus attenders. As we know, both parties hold caucus meetings in Iowa rather than a direct primary. How this affects the poll’s reliability is open to conjecture, but it is a considerable factor.

According to the data, Trump has overtaken Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the man who has been leading here for the better part of a year. In this study, Trump takes 19 percent of the committed support, followed by Walker and Dr. Ben Carson with 12 percent apiece. Ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush posts 11 percent, and Carly Fiorina, enjoying a major bump from her debate performance in the secondary event, catapults to 10 percent. It remains to be seen if Fiorina can develop staying power or whether this improved performance is simply a debate hype blip.

Each of the Republican candidates, including Trump, has healthy favorability ratings with the exception of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (34:44 percent positive to negative), Sen. Rand Paul (31:45 percent), Sen. Lindsey Graham (22:33 percent), former governors George Pataki (14:25 percent), and Jim Gilmore (4:16 percent).

The poll detects how the candidates might fare if people went to the polls and voted, but organizing a caucus participation system is a dissimilar format that could produce substantially different results.

For the Democrats, headlines continue to suggest that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is gaining on Hillary Clinton, but his movement is negligible. According to PPP, Clinton leads Sanders 52-25 percent, which isn’t markedly different than what we have previously seen.

No other candidate scores in double-digits. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley registers seven percent, with ex-Virginia Sen. Jim Webb attracting three percent, and former Rhode Island Governor and Sen. Lincoln Chafee barely scratching the polling surface at one percent. The poll did not include Vice President Joe Biden.

The methodology has two flaws for the Democrats. As on the Republican side, the sample is based upon “usual primary voters” and not caucus attenders. Considering that Clinton will likely have a superior campaign ground organization to Sanders, her numbers will probably increase in the caucus format.

Excluding Biden, however, may be the bigger problem. Since the Vice President is seriously considering entering the race, the poll does not provide an accurate depiction of the electorate’s position without his presence.

Webb and Chafee are the two candidates who have upside down favorability ratings. Webb records a 16:21 percent negative ratio, while Chafee, a former Republican, scores 9:22 percent.

Clinton does extremely well on the favorability question among members of her own party, scoring 75:15 percent. Again, we see the pattern that virtually all of her negative ratings, which normally do produce overall upside-down ratios, come almost wholly from Republicans and Independents.

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