Oct. 29, 2007
UI Hawkeye Poll: Huckabee gaining; Clinton and Obama battling for top spot
Mitt Romney continues to hold a strong lead in Iowa among candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination. But Mike Huckabee's Iowa numbers -- buoyed, perhaps, by growing support among Evangelical Christians -- have jumped significantly since August, putting him in a near-tie with Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson, according to a new University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll of likely GOP caucus-goers released today, Monday, Oct. 29, 2007.
Despite Giuliani's lead in most national polls, Romney holds a strong lead in Iowa at 36.2 percent, with Giuliani second at 13.1 percent, Huckabee third with 12.8 percent and Thompson fourth at 11.4 percent. John McCain has 6.0 percent.
In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, meanwhile, a slip in John Edwards' numbers has allowed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to tighten their grips on the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively. Among all likely Democratic caucus-goers, Clinton leads with 28.9 percent, followed by Obama with 26.6 percent, Edwards with 20.0 percent, Bill Richardson with 7.2 percent and Joe Biden with 5.3 percent.
These results are from a random, statewide poll of likely caucus-goers in Iowa conducted Oct. 17 through 24. The Republican sample consists of 285 likely caucus-goers, with a margin of error of +/-5.8 percent. The Democratic likely caucus-goer sample consists of 306 likely caucus-goers, with a margin of error of +/-5.5 percent. Respondents in both samples were asked to name the candidate they would support if the caucus were today.
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David Redlawsk, associate professor of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and co-director -- with fellow political science associate professor Caroline Tolbert -- of the UI Hawkeye Poll, said the Republican results show that Romney is continuing to build on his solid lead among respondents who indicated that they plan to participate in the Republican caucus, regardless whether they're committed to going or just thinking about it.
"We see no differences between these two groups and no candidate catching up to Romney, who had added more than 8 points to his August lead," Redlawsk said.
At the same time, he said the move by Huckabee is notable, as the former Arkansas governor received the support of fewer than 2 percent of Republican caucus-goers in the August poll, which was taken immediately before the Iowa Straw Poll.
"Huckabee's bounce from the Iowa Straw Poll remains evident as he moves into a virtual tie with Giuliani for second place with Thompson right behind them," Redlawsk said. "McCain has shown some rebound from August, but he remains far behind in Iowa."
On the Democratic front, after declining between March and August, Clinton's support has returned to March levels among likely caucus-goers while Obama's support has also increased. Edwards, on the other hand, continues to see a decline in the number of likely caucus-goers who say he is their candidate.
"Much of Clinton's strength comes from her support among women," Redlawsk said. "She leads with 33.0 percent of women, compared to Obama's 26.5 percent and Edwards' 16.8 percent. But the order reverses with men, where Obama leads 26.7 percent to Edwards at 25 percent and Clinton at 22.5 percent. How well Clinton will actually do depends greatly on the mix of women and men who actually show up to caucus."
Detailed analysis of the Republican and Democratic polls follow.
2008 caucus candidate support among Republicans
Romney lead strong; Huckabee moves up; others remain flat
Romney's lead in Iowa has continued to grow since March. In the latest poll, he receives support from 36.2 percent, up from 27.8 percent in August and 16.9 percent in March.
Redlawsk identified three trends in the Republican race in addition to Romney's increasing support. First, neither Giuliani nor McCain has recovered from their dramatic March-to-August decline, when McCain dropped from 20.9 percent to 3.1 percent and Giuliani from 20.3 percent to 11.7 percent. McCain ticked up in October to 6 percent but remains far behind. Giuliani's support was nearly unchanged at just over 13 percent. Second, Republican caucus-goers are beginning to make candidate choices. "Don't know" responses -- 23 percent in March and 27 percent in August -- declined to just shy of 15 percent in October. Third, the beneficiary of this decline appears to be Huckabee, the only candidate besides Romney to see strong gains from August to October.
"It's clear Romney is the one to beat in Iowa," Redlawsk said. "His support is now nearly triple his nearest competitor. He leads among all demographic groups including religious conservatives and is especially strong among the older voters who tend to be most likely to attend a caucus. At the same time, Huckabee is developing a following among Evangelical Christians which may allow him to make a strong showing at the caucus."
Huckabee support from Evangelicals
While Romney leads in all demographic groups, there is evidence Huckabee is becoming a focus for Evangelical Christians. Caucus-goers who say they are "born again" or "Evangelical" are much more likely to support Huckabee than are those who are not. Huckabee is a strong second to Romney with this group, 21.2 percent to 29.2 percent, respectively. Among Republicans who do not consider themselves Evangelical, Huckabee receives only 6.4 percent, while Romney has 41.1 percent.
About 44 percent of Republican caucus-goers consider themselves born again or Evangelical, but they appear no more or less likely to caucus than those who do not. "If Huckabee can motivate religious conservatives to attend the caucuses in large numbers, he may well threaten Romney and close some of the overall gap," Redlawsk noted.
Republicans less engaged than Democrats
One of the challenges in polling for the Iowa Caucuses is finding likely caucus-goers, who represent less than 20 percent of party members on caucus night. In this cycle it is especially difficult to identify Republicans planning to attend their caucus. "While searching for likely caucus-goers in a poll is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack under normal circumstances, Republicans seem significantly less engaged in this cycle than Democrats, despite having a very competitive national race," Redlawsk said. "By all our measures, Republicans are less engaged: For example, only 31 percent of Republicans say they are excited by the campaign, compared to 42 percent of Democrats. This is one indication that Republicans are not connecting as much to their candidates."
Other measures confirm this point. About 72 percent of Democrats say they have thought quite a lot about the campaign, compared to 66 percent of Republicans. Thirty percent of Democrats are following it very closely, versus 22 percent of Republicans. Moreover, it was harder to identify Republican caucus-goers in the sampling process. Of the registered voter contacts, 35.0 percent were Democrats, 31.9 percent were Republicans and 33.1 percent were neither party, broadly representative of Iowa party registration. But of those remaining in the caucus-going sample, 58.6 percent said they will attend the Democratic caucus and 41.4 percent said they will attend the Republican caucus, reflecting a significantly greater difficultly in identifying Republicans who say they may caucus.
2008 caucus candidate support among Democrats
Democratic race tight among likely caucus-goers
After trailing in earlier UI Hawkeye Polls, Clinton now leads among likely Democratic caucus-goers with 28.9 percent - a gain of 4.1 percent since August. Her lead is slim, only 2.3 points over Obama, who sits at 26.6 percent -- a boost of 7.3 percent since August. Edwards has 20.0 percent, a 6 percent drop since August. Richardson's August surge appears to have retreated, from 9.4 then percent to 7.2 percent now. Biden registered above 2 percent in the Hawkeye Poll for the first time, receiving 5.3 percent from likely caucus-goers. No other candidate reached 2 percent. A total of 8.9 percent are undecided, a decrease of more than 5.5 percent since March.
Edwards, Clinton supporters more likely than Obama supporters to caucus
Among Democrats, Edwards and Clinton supporters are significantly more likely than Obama supporters to say they are very likely to attend their caucus. Of Edwards supporters, 62.3 percent say they are "Very Likely" to caucus, as do 60.2 percent of Clinton supporters and 48.1 percent of Obama supporters. In 2004, 46.4 percent of Obama supporters did not caucus, compared to 42 percent of Clinton supporters and only 24.5 percent of Edwards supporters.
"Obama is clearly relying heavily on those who do not caucus regularly," Redlawsk said. "If we only look at caucus-goers who are almost certain to attend, we find that Edwards makes up the gap with Obama and Clinton moves clearly ahead. Women will be the key to a Clinton victory; for Obama, getting people who are less likely to caucus out the door in January will be critical."
Gender and age play big role
Significant gender and age differences appear in support for the Democratic candidates. Clinton does well among women, as she has from the beginning. At the same time, her support among men is not nearly as strong. The result is a "gender gap" in October of nearly 11 points, as 33 percent of women and 22.5 percent of men support Clinton. The opposite is true for Edwards, who is much more heavily supported by men (25 percent of men, 16.8 percent of women). Obama, however, gathers equal support from both men (26.7 percent) and women (26.5 percent).
Obama's strongest supporters are younger. Looking at three age groups, Democratic caucus-goers under 45 are much more likely to support Obama than any other group. About 41 percent of this group supports Obama, compared to 19 percent for Clinton and 16 percent for Edwards. Among those older than 60, however, Clinton leads with 31 percent, Obama has 24 percent and Edwards has 17 percent support.
"The gender and age patterns of support are particularly striking," Redlawsk said. "It is not surprising that Clinton has stronger support among women, but the gender gap is quite large at 11 percent. And clearly Obama's message of reaching across the aisle and working together, combined with the rhetoric of hope he employs, resonates especially with younger caucus-goers. However, for Obama, the real risk is that these folks will not show up to caucus, since historically caucus-goers have been significantly older than the population as a whole."
Democrats remain more satisfied with choices, less likely to change minds
Democrats are satisfied with their choices, but Republicans remain much less happy about their options. Only 10.9 percent of Republican caucus-goers are satisfied, while more than 40 percent of Democrats are. Likewise, only 9.4 percent of Democrats are not satisfied, compared to 19.3 percent of Republicans.
The percentage of Republicans who are very satisfied has declined since August, even with Fred Thompson joining the race. In August, 16.1 percent were very satisfied, compared to the 10.9 percent now.
Despite Romney's lead, the race remains somewhat fluid among Republicans. In addition to the nearly 15 percent of Republicans who do not have a candidate preference, many say they remain at least somewhat likely to change their mind. Nearly 61 percent are somewhat likely to change, while another 8.4 percent are very likely. Only 28.9 percent say they will not change.
"While Romney is clearly in the lead, there may yet be room for change in the Republican race in Iowa," Redlawsk said. "Nearly two-thirds of Republicans either have no preference or support someone other than Romney, and most seem open to changing their minds. Even so, the Romney campaign is strong here, and his most likely direct challenger, Huckabee, has a long way to go to mobilize enough Christian conservative support to offset Romney's broad-based strength."
Among Democrats, 39.6 percent say they are not at all likely to change their minds on who to support, up from 33.6 percent in August. While 57.5 percent of Democrats now say they are somewhat or very likely to change their mind, this is down from 65.2 percent in August, indicating that while the race remains fluid, Democratic caucus-goers are now beginning to settle on their choices. Only 7.9 percent say they are very likely to change.
"The Democratic campaign is beginning to settle down, which suggests that while Biden and Richardson in particular have made some gains over the last few months, the room for making more gains is slowly becoming limited." Redlawsk said. "Democrats are satisfied with their options, more motivated to turn out to caucus, and are becoming less uncertain about who they will support."
Obama supporters remain most likely to change minds
As in August, the poll points to challenges for Obama. Only 32.1 percent of Obama supporters say they are not at all likely to change their mind, compared to 42.3 percent of Edwards and 52.3 percent of Clinton supporters.
"In addition to Obama's challenge of getting his supporters out to caucus, he also has supporters who appear more likely to be considering other candidates," Redlawsk said.
Clinton supporters not interested in Al Gore
Democratic caucus-goers were asked how likely they would be to support former Vice President Al Gore if he were to run for president. Across the sample, 19.6 percent said they would be very likely to support Gore, putting him among the top tier. Another 34.5 percent said they would be somewhat likely to support Gore. Fewer than half (43.3 percent) said they would not support him.
Current Clinton supporters are significantly less likely to support Gore, with only 8.1 percent saying they would be very likely to do so. More than 1 in 5 Edwards and Obama supporters (Edwards, 21.7 percent; Obama, 23.4 percent) say they would be very likely to support Gore.
"The latent support for Al Gore suggests that caucus-goers who do not support Clinton remain open to an alternative to their current candidate," Redlawsk said. "Gore has made clear he is not interested in running, but there's clearly a base of potential support in Iowa if he were to change his mind."
Caucus sample: Of the caucus-goers sample, 53.3 percent were Democrats, 40.7 percent were Republicans, and 6.0 percent were independents. (In Iowa, independents may caucus for either party as long as they register for that party on caucus night.) Of the full caucus sample, 69.3 percent is married and 58 percent is female. Just over half -- 54.3 percent -- of the sample said they would attend a Democratic caucus, 38.3 percent a Republican caucus and 7.4 percent were undecided about which party's caucus to attend and were not included in analyses.
David Redlawsk and Caroline Tolbert, associate professors of political science, conducted the Hawkeye Poll with graduate students James Rydberg and Howard Sanborn, and undergraduate student Brigid Feymuller, all of the UI. The poll was carried out with the cooperation and facilities of the UI Social Science Research Center directed by Sociology Professor Kevin Leicht. The UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the UI Office of the Provost provided funding for the poll.
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