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University of Iowa News Release

 

Aug. 9, 2007

UI Poll: Edwards' Caucus Lead Disappears, Richardson Gains Traction

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination is tightening in Iowa as support for John Edwards and Hillary Clinton erodes somewhat and Bill Richardson gains traction among Democrats likely to caucus, according to a new University of Iowa poll released today.

"Democratic caucus goers appear to be splitting nearly evenly between Edwards, Clinton and Obama. Clinton now has an edge, though both she and Edwards have lost ground," said David Redlawsk (right), director of the poll and associate professor of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "Edwards' longstanding lead among Iowa Caucus goers appears to have disappeared; however, Edwards is still clearly seen as the most electable of the Democrats. Richardson is coming on strong but will be hindered by the perception that he's much less electable than any of the top three."

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.

Note: These results focus on the Democrats. For details on Republicans, and for the overall standings of candidates from both parties, see http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2007/august/080807poll-results-republican.html. Topline results and methodology are also available at http://www.uiowa.edu/election/, along with full results of the March poll for comparison.

Statewide Registered Democratic Voters; 2008 General Election

Of the 907 respondents in the statewide registered voter sample, 469 respondents self-identified as Democrats. The margin of error of the subsample is +/- 4.6 percent. These voters were asked: "If the 2008 Presidential election were today, who would you vote for?" Any candidate could be named; candidate names were not provided. Among all registered Democratic voters (not just those planning to caucus), changes since the UI's March poll are relatively small in most cases.

Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., remains on top with 30 percent, up 4.5 percent.

Sen. Obama, D-Ill., follows with 20.4 percent support, up 3.7 percent.

Former Sen. Edwards, D-N.C., sits at 16.1 percent, down 7.1 percent.

New Mexico Gov. Richardson is at 5.5 percent, up 4.2 percent. He is the only other candidate to receive more than 2 percent support.

The percentage of undecided Democrats is down. In the latest poll, 22.7 percent are undecided, compared to 27.5 percent in March.

Overall, registered Democrats are satisfied with their candidate choices. One-third are "very satisfied;" only 10.5 percent are "not satisfied." This stands in stark contrast to registered Republicans. Only 13.8 percent of Republicans say they are very satisfied, and 26.6 percent say they are not satisfied.

2008 Caucus Candidate Support

Of the caucus sample of 787 people, 425 identified themselves as Democrats. The margin of error for this subsample is +/- 4.9 percent. The caucus sample can be split into two groups: those most likely to caucus and those who are only potential caucus goers. Of the 425 Democratic Caucus goers, 319 were most likely to attend; the remaining 106 were less likely, or potential caucus goers.

Clinton Leads All Potential Caucus Goers; Edwards Leads Most Likely Caucus Goers

Among the total caucus sample combining both groups of Democratic caucus goers, Clinton leads with 26.8 percent, followed by Obama, 22.3 percent, Edwards, 22.1 percent and Richardson, 8.5 percent. Another 16.2 percent responded "don't know," and 4.1 percent support other candidates. Because this sample includes potential caucus goers, it is not directly comparable to the March UI Poll sample of likely caucus goers.

Among only the most likely Democratic caucus goers, Edwards remains the leader, competing primarily with Clinton for caucus support. Since March, the difference between Edwards and Clinton has evaporated. Edwards is supported by 26 percent of likely caucus goers; Clinton is supported by 24.8 percent. Though both remain front runners, both saw their support fall since March. Edwards fell by 8.2 percent, and Clinton fell by 3.7 percent. Obama, with 19.3 percent, held steady. Most notably, Richardson saw his support increase significantly, from less than 1 percent to 9.4 percent. No other candidate reached 2 percent. A total of 14.4 percent are undecided, an increase of more than 1.9 percent since March.

Redlawsk said Clinton leads among the combined likely and potential caucus goer samples because she picks up substantial support among the potential caucus goers. These are Democrats who claim they may caucus in 2008, but admit they have not done so regularly in the past. Clinton receives the support of nearly 33 percent of this group, while Obama receives 25 percent and Edwards only about 10 percent.

Edwards Supporters Most Likely To Caucus

The numbers are in Edwards' favor in terms of the likelihood of his supporters to actually attend the caucuses. More than 57 percent of Edwards supporters say they are "very likely" to attend, while only 42 percent of Clinton supporters say the same. Of the three front runners, Obama supporters are least likely to plan to attend; only 32.6 percent say they are very likely to attend.

"While the Edwards campaign should be concerned about the overall decline in support, he remains the top choice of those who are clearly most likely to attend a caucus," Redlawsk said. "But at the same time, if Clinton or Obama can motivate the Democrats who say they might caucus, but who have tended not to attend caucuses in the past, either may manage to beat Edwards."

Candidate Perception: Clinton "Strongest," Edwards "Most Electable"

In general, Democrats consider their top candidates even stronger now than in March. When the most likely Democratic caucus goers were asked whether they agreed that "Hillary Clinton is the Democrats' strongest candidate," 66.7 percent agreed or strongly agreed, an increase of 10.5 percent. As for Edwards, 58.3 percent agreed he is the strongest candidate, an increase of 12.2 percent, and 58.1 percent agreed that Obama is the strongest candidate, a 9.7 percent increase. Richardson and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Ct., were added to the list of candidates for the second UI poll. Just over 26 percent agreed that Richardson is the strongest candidate; only 7.3 percent agreed for Dodd.

Nearly 85 percent of the most likely Democratic caucus goers agreed with the statement "John Edwards is electable," compared to 81 percent for Obama and 76.3 percent for Clinton. Perceptions of the electability of all three leading candidates declined since March, when Edwards was at 89 percent, Obama at 86.6 percent and Clinton at 86.5 percent. This likely reflects increased support for Richardson, Redlawsk said. More than half of the most likely Democratic caucus goers -- 53.9 percent -- agree that Richardson is electable; only 27.8 percent believe the same about Dodd.

Democrats More Satisfied With Choices, Excited About Caucuses Than Republicans

Democratic caucus goers are far more satisfied with candidate choices than Republican caucus goers. More than 43 percent of Democrats are "very satisfied," compared to 16.1 percent of Republicans. Likewise, less than 7 percent of Democrats are "not satisfied," compared to 21 percent of Republicans.

Caucus goers were asked if they are "tired of all the campaigning" or "remain excited about the upcoming caucuses." Just over half (50.4 percent) of Democrats are excited, compared to only 32.2 percent of Republicans. But there are significant differences between candidates. Only 27.7 percent of Clinton supporters and 28.7 percent of Obama supporters are "tired of all the campaigning." But more than half of Edwards supporters and 39 percent of Richardson supporters are tired of it.

"The Democratic campaign is adjusting somewhat, with Edwards' initial advantage being overtaken by Clinton," Redlawsk said. "Democrats still see Edwards as the most electable, but his supporters seem less engaged at this point, which could be a problem down the road."

Obama Supporters Most Likely To Change Minds

More than 65 percent of all Democratic caucus goers with a candidate preference say they are very or somewhat likely to change their caucus preference. One-third say they are 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.

Redlawsk said the poll points to some potentially bad news for Obama: "The likelihood of voters changing their minds varies by candidate, and Obama supporters are more likely than Clinton or Edwards supporters to say they might change their mind," he said.

Nearly 71 percent of Obama supporters consider themselves open to change, saying it's very (7.4 percent) or somewhat (63.2 percent) likely they will change their minds. That compares to 63 percent of Edwards supporters (5.3 percent very, 57.4 percent somewhat) and nearly 59 percent of Clinton supporters (7.9 percent very, 50.9 percent somewhat).

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; 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 were Republicans, and 3.6 percent were independents. (In Iowa, independents may caucus for either party as long as they register for that party on caucus night.) A further screening identified 572 very likely caucus goers and 215 potential caucus goers. Also, 69.1 percent of the caucus goer sample is married, and 55 percent is female. 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.

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), david-redlawsk@uiowa.edu; Nicole Riehl, UI News Services, 319-384-0070, nicole-riehl@uiowa.edu