Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 29, 2007

Iowa caucus-goers say Iraq War, terrorism top issues in new UI Hawkeye Poll


* News release on poll data about presidential candidates

* Poll top-line data (PDF)

* Methodology (PDF)

* Cross-tab data (PDF)

* Audio file of Press Club news conference (courtesy of XM Radio)

* Audio file of POTUS interview of David Redlawsk on XM Radio

* PowerPoint detailing key findings of latest UI Hawkeye Poll (PDF)

* University of Iowa Election 2008 Web resource site

Iowa Democratic caucus-goers say the war in Iraq is the most important issue when considering their 2008 Presidential vote, while terrorism tops the list of issues for Republican caucus-goers, according to a new University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll released today, Monday, Oct. 29, 2007.

Republican and Democratic caucus-goers also differ greatly in the importance they attach to other policy issues, such as immigration, health care and moral issues.

"It is clear that Republican and Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa are interested in and responding to different issues," said 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. "This may well reflect the different rhetoric by the candidates of the two parties. Republicans rarely focus on the war in Iraq, preferring to talk about keeping America safe from terrorists, while Democratic candidates are all emphasizing the war, along with health care and the economy."

These results are from a random, statewide poll of caucus-goers in Iowa conducted Oct. 17 through 24. The Republican caucus sample consists of 285 caucus-goers, with a margin of error of +/-5.8 percent. The Democratic caucus sample consists of 306 caucus-goers, with a margin of error of +/-5.5 percent.

For related stories and information, visit the UI Election 2008 Web site at


Top issues for Iowa caucus-goers

Respondents were told "I am going to read a list of issues. Please tell me which ONE is the most important to your vote for president in 2008" and given a list of 11 issues (order was randomized): terrorism, the Iraq War, the economy, gay marriage, abortion, immigration, health care, energy policy, the environment/global warming, agricultural policy and education.


Democratic caucus-goers

The war in Iraq is the most important issue to likely Democratic caucus-goers by a wide margin, with 34.9 percent of caucus-goers identifying it as the most important issue. The second most important issue is healthcare at 23.2 percent, followed by the economy at 15.8 percent. Rounding out the remaining issues are education (6.7 percent), the environment (5.7 percent), energy policy (2.4 percent), immigration (2.4 percent), terrorism (1.7 percent), abortion (1.4 percent), agricultural policy (1.4 percent), and gay marriage (.7 percent), while 1.3 percent responded "don't know" and 2.7 percent responded "other."

"Democratic candidates have spent a lot of time on healthcare, making it no surprise that voters see it as an important issue," Redlawsk said. "At the same time, if voters were not already concerned about health care, candidates would not have been talking about it."

Candidate support is conditioned in interesting ways on the top three issues. Among Democratic caucus-goers who feel the Iraq war is the most important issue, 38.2 percent supported Clinton (followed by Obama at 23.5 percent). Healthcare-oriented voters also support Clinton (32.8 percent) followed by Edwards at 23.9 percent. Edwards leads among Democrats who indicated that the economy is the most important issue, polling 29.8 percent to Obama's 23.4 percent.

"While Edwards rightly claims he was the first with a detailed healthcare plan, Clinton is the preferred candidate for those who say this is most important, although Edwards does do better with this group than he does overall," Redlawsk said. "For Obama, the challenge is that while he focuses on his opposition to Iraq and challenges Clinton on her vote for the war, she maintains a strong lead among those who say this is the most important issue."


Republican caucus-goers

Among Republican caucus-goers, terrorism is the most important issue at 21.9 percent. The economy is second at 15.8 percent, followed by the Iraq war (15.5 percent), and immigration (13.7 percent). Rounding out the remaining issues are health care (9.7 percent), abortion (7.2 percent), education (4.0 percent), energy policy (2.9 percent), gay marriage (2.9 percent), agricultural policy (1.4 percent), and the environment (1.1 percent), while 2.2 percent responded "don't know" and 1.8 percent responded "other."

"Republicans are also responding to the messages of their candidates," said Redlawsk. "Where Democrats focus on Iraq, Republicans talk about terrorism and security; the result is that voters also focus on that issue."

In contrast to the Democrats, whose support differed by issue, Republicans consistently favor Romney regardless of which issue is considered the most important, reflecting his overwhelming frontrunner status. Among caucus-goers most concerned with terrorism, 33.3 percent supported Romney, followed by Fred Thompson at 18.3 percent. Romney does even better among those concerned about Iraq, with 46.5 percent support, followed by Giuliani at 18.6 percent. Romney also fares better among those focused on immigration, where 47.4 percent support Romney, followed by Fred Thompson at 10.5 percent. Finally, 30.2 percent of those indicating the economy is most important support Romney, followed by "don't know" at 27.9 percent.

"Romney's lead is so strong that issues do not affect it all that much," said Redlawsk. "What's more interesting is that Giuliani is not doing better among those focused on terrorism or Iraq, given his focus on national security issues."


The importance of immigration, gay marriage and abortion in 2008

Along with naming the most important issue for the 2008 election, respondents were asked how important a candidate's position on the issues of immigration, gay marriage and abortion was to their vote for president in 2008. These questions tapped the level of interest beyond simply being the "most important" issue.

Likely Republican caucus-goers found all three issues to be of significant importance. For immigration, 13.4 percent indicated it is the "most important" issue, while 52.5 percent say it is "very important" and 29.2 percent say it is "somewhat important." For gay marriage, while only 2.8 percent say it is the "most important" issue, 38.5 percent said it was "very important" and 25.8 percent said it was "somewhat important." Finally, for abortion, 7.1 percent indicated it is the "most important" issue, 37.5 percent say it is "very important" and 33.9 percent call it "somewhat important" to their vote choice.

Democratic caucus-goers find these same three issues to be of much less importance. For immigration, only 2.3 percent indicate it is the "most important" issue, another 32.1 percent say it is "very important", and 50.8 percent say it is "somewhat important." For gay marriage, less than 1 percent call it the "most important" issue, 12.9 percent say it is "very important" and 26.9 percent say it is "somewhat important." Finally, for abortion, 1.3 percent call it the "most important" issue, 30.1 percent say it is "very important" and 36.6 percent say it is "somewhat important."


Attitudes towards immigrants and immigration policy

Caucus-goers of both parties were asked about their preferences on what "government policy should be regarding undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States" and given four choices: 1) deport all undocumented immigrants, 2) allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. as guest workers for a limited time, 3) allow undocumented immigrants to become citizens if they meet criteria like learning English and paying their back taxes or 4) allow undocumented immigrants to become permanent residents with no requirements. The third option of allowing citizenship with requirements is commonly thought of as "earned citizenship." As was the case in both the March and August Hawkeye Polls, Iowa caucus-goers continue to prefer the "earned citizenship" option, with 66.9 percent of Democrats and 51.7 percent of Republicans choosing this option. Another 29.7 percent of Republicans support deportation, compared to only 14.7 percent of Democrats. A guest worker program is the preference of 16.5 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats. Few support permanent residence without restrictions (2.2 percent of Republicans and 6.5 percent of Democrats.) There has been little change for either party since August despite all of the discussion of immigration.

When asked who is "most responsible" for the current immigration situation, caucus-goers of both parties blame "employers who hire undocumented immigrants" with 57.3 percent of Democrats and 49.2 percent of Republicans placing the blame on employers. Responsibility was placed on "immigration policies established by the federal government" by 28.5 percent of Democrats and 31.3 percent of Republicans, and on "the undocumented immigrants who come across our borders" by 14.5 percent of Democrats and 19.5 percent of Republicans.

"It is telling that Iowa caucus-goers do not actually blame the immigrants living among them, instead believing business and the federal government are to blame," said Redlawsk. "Iowans apparently understand why these immigrants come here, even if they are concerned about the issue. The fact that just about a majority of both parties supports earned citizenship suggests that those who are focusing on a hard line on immigration do not have very fertile ground in Iowa."


Sample characteristics

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.

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: David Redlawsk, UI Hawkeye Poll, 319-400-1134 (cell),; Caroline Tolbert, UI Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-2360 (office),; Kevin Leicht, UI Social Science Research Center, 319-335-2502 (office), 319-621-0570 (cell),; Nicole Riehl, UI News Services, 319-384-0070,