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University of Iowa News Release


Aug. 8, 2007

As Straw Poll Approaches, Romney Soars, Giuliani Drops And McCain Collapses

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appears to have taken a commanding lead in Iowa among registered Republican voters and Republican caucus goers, according to a new University of Iowa poll released today, Wednesday, Aug. 8. Poll results also indicate that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has lost support, and support for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has collapsed well into the third tier of candidates.

"Republicans appear to be punishing both Giuliani and McCain for their unwillingness to compete in the Aug. 11 Straw Poll, while Romney's campaign has hit its stride," said David Redlawsk (right), director of the poll and associate professor of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "While McCain's collapse has been documented in other polls, we found that more than 70 percent of Republican caucus goers believe the Ames Straw Poll is a good indicator of how candidates are doing, and 63 percent believe that all serious Republican candidates should participate."

These results are from a random, statewide poll of registered voters in Iowa conducted July 29 through Aug. 5. Two groups were interviewed: a random sample of 907 registered voters and a sample of 787 people planning to attend the caucus. The margin of error is +/-3.25 percent for the full registered voter sample and +/-3.5 percent for the full caucus sample. The topline results from this poll as well as a summary of poll methodology are available for download as PDF documents.

The UI will release additional poll results, including more information on the Democrats, later this week.

2008 Presidential Preference

Respondents were asked an open-ended question: to name the candidate they support for president in the 2008 election. They could name any candidate from either party.

Statewide Registered Voters

Among the sample of all 907 registered voters, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., led with 18 percent support, an increase of 4.5 percent since the March UI poll.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was second with 13.8 percent, an increase of 2.9 percent.

Romney saw the largest increase in support. He was supported by 8.9 percent of all registered respondents this time - nearly double his March support of 4.7 percent.

Former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., tied with Romney, also receiving support from 8.9 percent of registered voters, a drop of more than 3.5 percent from the last poll.

Edwards was followed by Giuliani, who had 4 percent, and Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., at 3.5 percent. Giuliani's support dropped by almost half since March.

McCain saw the largest decrease in support over the past four months. He fell from 6.6 percent support in March to only 1 percent now, a decrease of more than 5.5 percent.

No other candidate was mentioned by more than 3 percent of all respondents.

Undecided was the most popular response. Nearly a third -- 30.7 percent -- said they haven't settled on a candidate, a drop of about 6 percent since March.

Statewide Registered Republican Voters

This subsample included 330 respondents who self-identified as Republicans. The margin of error of the subsample is +/- 5.25 percent.

The changes among Republican voters since March are dramatic. Romney is now the preferred candidate at 21.8 percent -- double his March support.

Giuliani's support, 10 percent, decreased by almost 8.5 percent. McCain's support has collapsed in Iowa. His support among registered Republicans dropped from 14.4 percent in March to 1.8 percent in July-August. UI political scientists note that McCain has been passed in popularity not only by former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., who earned 5.2 percent support, but also by a Democratic challenger, Obama, who is supported by 6.7 percent of Republicans. No other candidate received more than 3 percent support.

Fewer Republicans are undecided now (34.8 percent) than in March (39.9 percent). Still, the percentage of undecided Republicans is nearly 12 points higher than the percentage of undecided Democrats.

2008 Caucus Candidate Support

Caucus goers of both parties were asked to name the candidate they intend to support. They were not given candidates' names as a prompt. Participants were asked questions about the top candidates in their own party: the extent to which each candidate is the party's strongest candidate, and whether each candidate is electable. Republican caucus goers were also asked a series of questions about the Straw Poll in Ames.

Of the caucus sample of 787 voters, 303 self-identified as Republicans. The margin of error for this subsample is +/-5.5 percent.

Nearly a third -- 31.1 percent -- of the self-identified Republican caucus goers remained undecided. With 26.9 percent, Romney led his nearest competitor, Giuliani (11.3 percent), by more than 15 percent. Thompson was third with 6.5 percent, followed by Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., both at 4.2 percent. With 3.2 percent, McCain was the only remaining Republican with more than 3 percent.

Candidate Perception: Romney Strongest And Most Electable

When likely Republican caucus goers were asked whether they agree with the statement, "Mitt Romney is the Republicans' strongest candidate," 55.6 percent did, an increase of more than 25 percent since March. Another 46.4 percent agreed that Giuliani is the strongest candidate, a decrease of 11 percent since March. Just below 30 percent of Republican caucus goers agreed that Thompson is the strongest candidate. (Respondents were not asked about Thompson in March.) Only 14.9 percent agreed that McCain is the strongest candidate, a decrease of more than 22 percent since March. Only 12.6 percent considered Brownback the strongest candidate.

When given the statement "Mitt Romney is electable," 79.4 percent of Republican caucus goers agreed. This was an increase of almost 17 percent since March. Giuliani, with 73.9 percent, was considered the second-most-electable candidate, a drop of 8.5 percent. Thompson was considered electable by 57.7 percent of Republican caucus goers. Only 31.5 percent of Republican caucus goers agreed that McCain was electable, a decrease of more than 30 percent. Brownback, with 23.9 percent, was considered the least electable of the candidates included in this battery of questions.

"Perceptions of strength and electability are clearly tied to the overall support given to a candidate," Redlawsk said. "The sharp increase in support for Romney and drastic decrease in support for McCain are evidence of this link."

Republican Discontent

Respondents were asked how satisfied they are with the current crop of candidates and how likely they are to change their preference before the Iowa Caucuses in January.

"In Iowa, the Republican race is far from settled," Redlawsk said. "Romney leads by a substantial margin, but an even larger number of Republican caucus goers are undecided, and many are unhappy with the candidate choices available to them. And though Romney leads, his supporters still seem willing to consider other candidates."

When asked how satisfied they are with their candidate choices, Republican caucus goers were far less satisfied than Democrats. Only 16.1 percent of Republicans considered themselves "very satisfied," compared to 41.3 percent of Democrats. Likewise, 21.2 percent of Republicans were "not satisfied" compared to just 7 percent of Democrats.

More than 72 percent of Republican caucus goers with a current candidate preference said they were "very" or "somewhat" likely to change their caucus preference. Only 26 percent said they were not at all likely to change. In comparison, 33 percent of Democratic caucus goers said they were not likely to change their preference.

"Given that the caucuses are five months away, it's not surprising that large numbers are still at least somewhat fluid in their preferences," Redlawsk said. "But it may be meaningful that more Republicans than Democrats feel this way, especially coupled with the high percentage of 'don't know' responses among Republican caucus goers."

Supporters of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and of Brownback were most likely to say they stand firm in their support (Huckabee, 62.5 percent; Brownback, 46.2 percent). Thirty-five percent of Thompson supporters said they wouldn't change their minds, compared to 25.7 percent of Giuliani supporters and 20.5 percent of Romney supporters.

Iowa Straw Poll

A sample of 222 people who were considered the most likely Republican caucus goers were asked a series of questions about the Aug. 11 Straw Poll in Ames.

Most -- 81.5 percent -- were aware of the straw poll; 18.5 percent were not. Of those who were aware, only 23.8 percent planned to attend, leaving a number too small to analyze with confidence for details of candidate support. However, about one-third of those planning to attend said they support Romney, 16 percent Tancredo, 12 percent Giuliani, 9 percent Brownback and 7 percent Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

When asked about their reaction to McCain and Giuliani not attending the straw poll, Republicans were generally quite negative. Only 8.8 percent agreed with the statement "The straw poll doesn't mean much, so it doesn't matter if they don't participate." Nearly 17 percent believed that while the straw poll doesn't mean much, "all serious candidates should participate." About one-quarter agreed that "the straw poll is a good indicator of how candidates are doing, but not participating will not hurt them [McCain and Giuliani] in the caucus." Almost half believed that "the Straw Poll is a good indicator of how candidates are doing; by not participating they are hurting their chances in the caucus."

"Clearly, most Republicans think not participating in the straw poll will hurt both candidates," Redlawsk said. "When asked if it would affect their own vote, 15 percent said it would, and virtually all said it would make them less likely to support either candidate."

Sample Characteristics

Registered voter sample: Of the 907 registered voters, 39.1 percent were Republican, 51.7 percent Democrat and 9.2 percent independent. The small number of independents occurs because those initially identifying as independents are asked to indicate which party they "lean" toward. The remaining 9.1 percent represent true independents who claim not to lean toward either party. Two-thirds of the respondents are married. Women make up 57.3 percent of the sample, while men make up 42.7 percent. (In Iowa, about 54 percent of registered voters are women.) Results are unweighted.

Caucus goer sample: Of the 787 caucus goers, 56.1 percent were Democrats, 40.3 percent Republicans and 3.6 percent independents. (In Iowa, independents may caucus for either party as long as they register for that party on caucus night.) Also, 69.1 percent of the caucus goer sample is married, and 55 percent is female. A further screening identified 572 very likely caucus goers and 215 potential caucus goers. Just over half -- 51.4 percent -- of the sample said they would attend a Democratic caucus, 39.1 percent a Republican caucus and 9.5 percent were undecided about which party's caucus to attend.

The poll was carried out with the cooperation and facilities of the UI Social Science Research Center. UI graduate students James Rydberg and Howard Sanborn and undergraduate Brigid Feymuller collaborated with Redlawsk on the poll.

For further comparison, complete results of the March 2007 UI poll are available at Topline results for all polls are also available on the site under the news and events link.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

CONTACTS: David Redlawsk, associate professor of political science, 319-335-2352 (office), 319-400-1134 (cell),; Nicole Riehl, UI News Services, 319-384-0070,