Good analysis in Slate of recent polling of Iowa GOP caucus voters on the Republican presidential field. Good news for Donald Trump; bad news for the establishment Republicans.
Trump leads, with Ben Carson 5 points back. But that’s not the real news (though the anti-establishment sentiment is a big deal.)
Dig down into the survey’s crosstabs and there’s evidence that runs counter to two of the chief things that Republicans have been consoling themselves with during the Summer of Trump: The first is that despite the billionaire’s unexpected rise to the top of the polls, his appeal is too limited to attract the kind of support he’ll need to stay there once the field narrows. The second is that the Donald’s allure is all about his personality and not about his actual policies.
Point 1, a perceived ceiling on Trump’s potential:
That may still prove true in time but right now Trump’s Iowa ceiling looks a whole lot higher than it once was. In the three months since the last time the Register’s pollsters asked the question, the percentage of likely GOP caucus-goers who said they could “never” vote for Trump dropped in half from 58 percent—the highest in the field at the time—to 29 percent, a number roughly in the middle of the Republican pack. Likewise, those who said they could see themselves voting for Trump doubled from 34 to 68 percent over that same period. His favorability splits tell a similar story: 61 percent of likely GOP caucus-goers said they had a favorable opinion of him, compared to 35 percent who had an unfavorable one. That’s a near complete reversal from where those numbers stood in May, back when no one thought he’d actually get in the race.
Point 2, personality over policy. Maybe, but:
That still seems like a safe bet. In the Iowa poll, for example, 57 percent of Republican respondents said that when it comes to policy specifics, they trust their first choice candidate “to figure it out” once he’s in office, compared to only 41 percent who wanted to be clear up front where that candidate stood. That’s a good sign for Trump: I’ll figure it out is his unofficial campaign slogan when it comes to policy. (Though the rest of the GOP field could make a similar claim.)
Still, Trump has gotten specific on immigration. And on that topic at least, Iowa Republicans like what they’ve heard. When pollsters asked about Trump’s deport-them-all immigration strategy without mentioning his name, it was remarkably well received. Nearly half of the Republicans polled—47 percent—said that “rounding up 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally and sending them to their home country” would be a “good way” to address the nation’s immigration problems, compared to 37 percent who said the opposite. Meanwhile, two-thirds of the GOP respondents said that generally speaking, the issue of illegal immigration was a strength for Trump.
UPDATE: And check out this national polling: Trump, 30; Ben Carson, 18, Bush and Cruz, 8, Rubio, 5. In head-to-head matches, only Carson beat Trump.