By Craig Robinson
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has surpassed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in a recent Iowa poll that was conducted by TheIowaRepublican.com. With Bachmann now leading in Iowa, Romney has fallen to second place, but he is still well ahead of third place finisher Tim Pawlenty, who has overtaken Herman Cain my a miniscule margin.
Bachmann received support from 25 percent of likely Iowa caucus goers in the poll, while Romney is backed by 21 percent. The poll also shows signs of growth for former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who now stands in third place in statistical tie with Herman Cain at just under nine percent. Ron Paul finished with six percent, Newt Gingrich with four percent, Rick Santorum with two percent, and Jon Huntsman rounded out the field with one percent.
Bachmann’s campaign has taken off like a rocket since participating and announcing her presidential intentions during the CNN debate in New Hampshire last month. Here in Iowa, Bachmann has been playing up her Iowa roots. She officially announced her candidacy in Waterloo, the town in which she was born and spent her formative years. The night before she made her announcement, Bachmann’s campaign hosted a rally for 500 locals who came to welcome her home.
While Bachmann’s lead over Romney is just within the margin of error, the poll’s cross tabs show how much momentum her campaign has generated in Iowa. Her favorability is ten points higher than Romney’s, who had the second highest number in that category. Her unfavorable figure is 14 points lower than Romney’s, giving her a stellar plus 65 favorability margin. Her numbers suggest that Bachmann has found a very effective way to appeal to caucus goers.
The candidate with the next highest favorable/unfavorable spread is Tim Pawlenty with a plus 48 margin. Like Bachmann, Pawlenty is well liked by caucus goers, but he has found it more difficult to move his overall polling number in the state. Pawlenty finished in third place in the poll by edgeing out Herman Cain, 8.8 percent to 8.5 percent. Pawlenty’s numbers have increased since the Des Moines Register poll showed him at 6 percent. A major factor could be the radio and television ads the Pawlenty campaign has been airing in the past few weeks.
To date, the race has not yet developed into an ideological contest. Caucus goers do not currently appear to be ranking the candidates according to the way they view them ideologically, but to the extent they are perceived as popular, and therefore electable. This is perhaps not as surprising as one might think because no one is running as the moderate in the race.
Candidates with a relatively moderate record are going out of their way to apologize for their past positions on issues and trying to present themselves as conservatively as they can. It appears that, right now, most all of the candidates have been successful in this regard. As a result, it is not surprising that the opinions of caucus goers are not being shaped by their relative ideologies because most of the candidates seem to have similar positions. That is not to say that this won’t change, but it simply has not yet happened. As the campaign intensifies and the candidates try to sharpen their differences, the race may very well be reshaped as the caucuses approach.
While ideology has yet to play a role in the caucus landscape, there are some other interesting inferences to keep and eye on to see if they hold true. For example, there are virtually no gender differences on the head-to-head question. Specifically, women are no more or less likely to vote for a female candidate than men are.
Mitt Romney is considered to be the candidate best versed in business and the economy, yet his expertise in those areas is not currently giving him an advantage. Among those who mention the economy as a top concern, Romney’s share of support is not significantly different than it is among those who rank other issue areas higher than the economy.
The one candidate who does substantially better on a certain issue set is Bachmann, who scores well with people who mention border security as a top concern. She garners a 36 percent vote share in this group compared to 25 percent among the sample as a whole. What is interesting is that Bachmann has rarely talked about this issue as a candidate, but her close ties to Congressman Steve King may be helping her with those who are passionate about the issue. Still, relatively few people mentioned border security as a top concern in the poll.
It is also clear that the media’s coverage of the candidates matters greatly. Where people learn about the candidates affects how they feel about them. In 2008, Romney ran across some talk radio hosts who didn’t care for him. More generally, very conservative activists tend to get more of their information from talk radio and from Internet sources. You can see this trend in the current survey.
Unlike many other elections, caucus participants still mention the evening news as their primary source of information, and many still mention newspaper news, probably reflecting the fact that caucus participants are generally older. Relatively few respondents mention the Internet as their primary source of information.
Candidates who do well among people who mention the Internet as a source of information include Herman Cain, who gets a 13 percent share of the vote among internetters, compared to 9 percent in the sample as a whole. Bachmann does equally well in all audiences, regardless of their source of information. Romney, however, still has a talk radio problem. The following table shows his share of the vote in the sample as a whole and compares it to caucus participants arranged by their preferred source of information.
Finally, it’s also interesting to see where the candidates are garnering the most support. Bachmann is currently enjoying the most widespread support in the state. She garners the most support in all of Iowa’s media markets except for Sioux City, where Romney leads. She performed the best in the Davenport media market, which is interesting because she has not campaigned there much, but neither has anyone else. The Davenport area was a Romney stronghold four years ago.
The poll also asked respondents who they supported in the last caucus cycle. This allowed us to see how well candidates appeal to supporters of previous candidates. Of those who said they supported Huckabee in 2008, Bachmann got 28 percent. She did even better with those who supported Fred Thompson by garnering 40 percent of his former supporters. Bachmann performed well with McCain voters as well – 24 percent of those who caucused for him in 2008, said they are backing her.
The poll clearly indicates that Bachmann has hit a chord with Iowans. Her campaign has enjoyed a tremendous amount of media coverage since she stepped foot on the debate stage in New Hampshire just over three weeks ago. As the clear Iowa frontrunner, Bachmann must now cement her position at the front of the pack by winning the Ames Straw Poll next month.
With Romney not participating in the straw poll, Bachmann’s lead over the rest of the field is substantial as she is ahead of Pawlenty and Cain by 16 points. She has also raised her expectations by embracing her Iowa roots. Not only is Bachmann the Iowa frontrunner, but she has constantly reminded Iowans that she’s one of them at every campaign stop. While it didn’t take her long to shoot to the top of the polls, winning in Ames and later in the caucuses themselves requires a massive ground game. If she has one area of weakness, that would be it.
About the poll:
Voter/Consumer Research conducted the poll by telephone interviews between the dates of June 26th and June 30th. It has a sample size of 500 likely caucus goers, and has a margin of error of ± 4.4 percent. Dr. Jan van Lohuizen, an expert in the field of public policy and public opinion research, founded Voter/Consumer Research. Dr. van Lohuizen was President George W. Bush’s primary pollster and has provided his services to a number of political candidates, corporations, and various think tanks. This is the third Iowa poll Dr. van Lohuizen has conducted for TheIowaRepublican.com.
The poll was commissioned by TheIowaRepublican.com and The Iowa Republican magazine. Craig Robinson founded both entities in 2009. Robinson was the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa in 2007. In that capacity, he organized both the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and 2008 Iowa Caucuses.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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