Poll: Trump tops in Iowa as Scott Walker drops

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Courtesy of CNN

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has a significant lead in the race to win over likely Iowa caucus-goers, according to the first CNN/ORC poll in the state this cycle.

Trump tops the field with 22 percent, and is the candidate seen as best able to handle top issues including the economy, illegal immigration and terrorism. He’s most cited as the one with the best chance of winning the general election, and, by a wide margin, as the candidate most likely to change the way things work in Washington.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson follows Trump in overall preference with 14 percent, bumping Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who had held the top spot in most recent public polling in Iowa, down to third place with 9 percent. Walker is nearly even with a slew of other candidates.

Previous public polls had found Carson with around 10 percent support, but most were released before last week’s debate. A Suffolk University poll of Iowa Republicans released Tuesday found Carson’s closing remarks to be the most memorable moment for those who watched the primetime debate.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz follows the top three at 8 percent, with businesswoman Carly Fiorina and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee both at 7 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is tied at 5 percent with senators Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. The rest of the field stands at 3 percent or less.

Two-thirds of Iowa Republicans who are likely to attend the caucus say they’re still trying to decide whom to support. Among the 34 percent who say they have made up their mind or are leading toward a candidate, Trump’s lead grows, and the top of the field shifts. Among that group, 33 percent back Trump, 14 percent Carson, 11 percent Fiorina, and 9 percent each back Paul and Walker. Cruz follows at 7 percent, and all others have less than 5 percent support.

But Trump’s advantages are not universal. He faces a large gender gap: While holding a 15-point lead over his nearest competitor among men (27 percent Trump to 12 percent Walker, Carson at 10 percent), he trails among women (20 percent back Carson, 15 percent Trump, and 11 percent support Fiorina). He runs behind Carson and about even with Walker and Cruz among those who describe themselves as “very conservative” (25 percent Carson, 15 percent each Cruz and Walker, 12 percentTrump), and he runs even with Carson among evangelical Christians (18 percent each Trump and Carson, 12 percent Cruz, 11 percent Huckabee, 10 percent Walker).

Both evangelical Christians and those who call themselves very conservative make up a substantial share of Iowa caucus-goers. According to entrance polls conducted for CNN, half of caucus attendees considered themselves “very conservative” in 2012, while born-again Christians were 57 percent of participants. Forty-three percent of 2012 Republican caucus attendees were women.

Trump holds his biggest advantage as the candidate who “is most likely to change the way things work in Washington,” 44 percent say Trump can do that, no other candidate hits double-digits.

When asked to name the issue that will be most important in deciding which candidate to support for president next year, Iowa Republicans likely to attend the presidential caucus most frequently cite an economic issue, with 33 percent naming an economy-related concern, 20 percent a foreign policy issue, 14 percent immigration, 8 percent social issues, and 6 percent government spending, taxes or the national debt. Among those who call the economy their top concern, 39 percent say they most trust Trump to handle it, 12 percent Fiorina, and 11 percent Walker. And those who cite a foreign policy concern also put Trump atop their list of trusted candidates for handling terrorism, but by a smaller margin: 17 percent trust Trump, 10 percent Cruz, 9 percentPaul.

The poll was conducted August 7-11 among a statewide sample of 2,014 Iowa adults, 544 of whom were identified as likely Republican caucusgoers based on questions about whether they are registered to vote, likelihood of voting, past voting behavior and interest in the campaign. The margin of sampling error for results among the sample of likely Republican caucus attendees is plus or minus 4 percentage points.