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University of Iowa News Release


Dec. 15, 2011

Hawkeye Poll: Virtual tie between GOP frontrunners and Obama in Iowa

Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, the current frontrunners in Iowa for the GOP nomination, both hold slight leads over President Barack Obama if the 2012 presidential election were held today, according to a University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll released today.

In a sample of 982 registered voters in Iowa, Gingrich leads Obama 45.6 percent to 43.3 percent, with 11.1 percent undecided, while Romney leads with 42.6 percent to 41.7 percent, with 15.7 percent undecided. Both leads, however, are within the margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent, suggesting that the race is effectively tied.

"The fact that both currently fare equally well among voters for the general election may be an advantage for Gingrich," says Frederick Boehmke, associate professor of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and faculty adviser to the Hawkeye Poll. "Electability has been an important part of Romney's appeal, but if Republican caucus-goers see other candidates as just as electable, then Romney will lose that advantage and his support might start to slide."

According to the same poll, Gingrich currently retains his lead over Romney, with 29.8 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers indicating that they would vote for Gingrich and 20.3 percent of the respondents supporting Romney if the caucuses were held today.

The race is even tighter among Independents, with Obama and Romney deadlocked at 37.4 percent to 37.5 percent and Obama showing a slight lead over Gingrich at 41.0 percent to 39.6 percent. The differences are again within the margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

"Independents, comprising a third of the electorate, are key voters in the general election. If Romney leads Obama in a head-to-head race among Independents it suggests Romney may be the more electable candidate in terms of broad appeal," says Caroline Tolbert, UI professor of political science in CLAS.

Detailed analysis of the poll follows. Topline results for the polls are available at: Additional topline data from the same poll can be found with the Hawkeye Poll released Monday, Dec. 12 at

Sources of support

Amongst female voters in Iowa, Gingrich fares better than Obama, with 43.8 percent of the vote versus 41.3 percent for Obama. Male voters also prefer Gingrich over Obama by about 2 percent. It appears that Romney has a slight edge over Obama amongst males (43.8 to 42.0 percent). Female voters are nearly evenly split between Obama and Romney.

"Turnout among young voters will likely be critical for Obama in 2012 since that remains his strongest set of supporters. However, the margin is small and younger voters may be less likely to turn out in 2012," Boehmke says.

Among 18 to 34 year olds, 46.7 percent would vote for Obama if the election were held today while only 35.4 percent would vote for Romney. Romney leads the race across all other age categories, however, with a 3 percent advantage amongst 35 to 54 year olds, 2 percent for 55 to 69 year olds, and 12 percent for voters aged 70 or older. Obama leads Gingrich by 2 percent among young voters (aged 18 to 34). Obama trails Gingrich, however, among voters aged 35 to 54 by 5 percent, voters aged 55 to 69 by 2 percent, and voters 70 and older by 3 percent.

"Gingrich has a greater advantage than Romney among voters with a worse view of the economy, which could turn out to be an important advantage given continued high unemployment and relatively slow economic growth," Boehmke says.

Voters who reported the economy is "very poor" prefer Gingrich (64.5 to 22.7 percent) over Obama, while the same voters preferred Romney over Obama by a smaller, but still sizeable margin of 59 to 27.9 percent.


Tea party and Occupy Wall Street movements

Gingrich and Romney also appear to have the support of voters who sympathize with the Tea Party movement, though Gingrich appears to have greater support from Tea Party supporters. Obama leads among those who support the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Voters who said that they "strongly" or "somewhat strongly" support the Tea Party movement would choose Romney (71.6 percent) over Obama (12.9 percent) in the 2012 presidential election and would even more lopsidedly vote for Gingrich (81.2 percent) over Obama (8.7 percent). Among those who "neither support nor oppose" the Tea Party movement, Obama received a smaller share of votes (34.9 percent) compared with Romney's 40.9 percent. Of those respondents, Gingrich (40.6 percent) is preferred over Obama (34.9 percent). For those who "strongly" or "somewhat strongly" oppose the Tea Party movement, Obama is the preferred candidate. Obama earned 70.5 percent of the vote share compared with Romney's 17.1 percent and an even greater 76.8 percent vote share against Gingrich (14.8 percent).

Of respondents who support the Occupy Wall Street movement "strongly" or "somewhat strongly," 62.5 percent would vote for Obama if he ran against Mitt Romney (21.4 percent) in 2012 while a similar 64.6 percent of such voters would vote for Obama over Gingrich (24.8 percent). Among voters who neither support nor oppose the OWS movement, Obama would win by a 26.5 percent margin over Romney (56.8 percent to 30.3 percent). Similar numbers emerge for Obama (58.3 percent) over Gingrich (36.9 percent). Among those who "strongly" or "somewhat strongly" oppose the Occupy Wall Street movement Romney has a two to one margin (60.3 to 29.2 percent) and Gingrich does even better (62.7 percent) over Obama (29.2 percent).


Four years ago, the Hawkeye Poll was the first to see Barack Obama moving closer to then-leader Hillary Clinton among Democratic caucus-goers, and to indicate Mike Huckabee was gaining traction with Republicans. Obama and Huckabee would go on to win the state's first-in-the-nation caucus in January 2008.

The Iowa caucuses will be held Jan. 3, 2012. For related stories and information, visit the UI Election 2012 website at


About the Hawkeye Poll

The poll was conducted by the Hawkeye Poll Cooperative, comprised of UI faculty and graduate students in political science. The faculty adviser for the poll is UI Associate Professor of Political Science Frederick Boehmke. The poll used the facilities of the Iowa Social Science Research Center, directed by UI Sociology Professor Kevin Leicht. UI Professor of Political Science Caroline Tolbert is a member of the Hawkeye Poll Cooperative and co-author of Why Iowa? The poll is a teaching, research, and service project of the Department of Political Science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. CLAS and the Provost's Office fund the poll.

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Frederick Boehmke, Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-2342 (office), 716-866-9277 (cell),; Caroline Tolbert, Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-2358 (office), 319-621-8452 (cell),; Kelli Andresen, University News Services, 319-384-0070 (office), 319-330-9951 (cell),; Cassie Cumings-Peterson, Hawkeye Poll, 651-373-4305 (cell), 319-335-2319 (office),; Natasha Altema, Hawkeye Poll, 404-625-3372 (cell), 319-335-3844 (office),


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

MEDIA CONTACT: Kelli Andresen, 319-384-0012,