GOP Nomination isn’t Cinched Yet: Bloomberg Poll Shows Paul, Gingrich Gaining Steam in Iowa

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Iowa caucus results are often used to predict presidential nominees, although this method is not always accurate. Photo Credit: 2012IowaCaucus.com

With the Iowa caucuses seven weeks away, it appears that the state’s Republican nomination could end up going to Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, or Newt Gingrich, according to a Bloomberg poll released November 15. Contrasting from recent national polls that tend to show Romney and Cain vying for the lead with Gingrich rising, the Iowa poll has Cain receiving 20 percent of the vote, Paul with 19 percent, Romney with 18 percent and Gingrich with 17 percent, among registered Republicans. Since Iowa will hold the first GOP primary election, the winner will gain significant momentum going into subsequent primaries. However, the winner of the Iowa caucuses has not always historically carried the party nomination, so it is difficult to determine how accurate this poll may be in predicting national results.

Poll Methodology

The poll was conducted between November 10 and November 12. Respondents were dialed at random using the Iowa voter registration list. Only registered Republicans were contacted, and of the 2677 contacted, 503 said they would definitely or probably participate in the caucuses.  The sample was weighted for age and sex. The maximum margin of error was 4.4, however it is noted that this number applies to questions that were only asked of the 503 respondents who identified as likely voters, and the margin would have been smaller when the entire sample was surveyed. Poll data does not specify which questions were directed to the sub-sample, or what the margin of error was for questions asked of the full sample.

Poll Results

Besides illustrating a very close four-man race for the Iowa nomination, the poll

An Iowa Caucus win may give Ron Paul the momentum he needs to become a nationwide front runner. Photo Credit: Newsone

shows dwindling support for Michele Bachmann, who received 5 percent of the vote despite winning the Ames straw poll in August 2011, causing her to be considered a front-runner for the national nomination at the time.

When asked specific questions about political issues, 77 percent of respondents said the most critical issue on which they evaluate the candidates is their stance regarding government size and national debt. The poll also indicated that 58 percent of Iowa Republicans would rule out support for a candidate who has favored an individual healthcare mandate, which may explain why Romney’s performance was lacking with Iowa Republicans when compared to his national poll numbers.

Ron Paul’s solid standing in this poll may be what sets it furthest apart from national polls. Typically, Paul polls in the single digits among Republicans on a nationwide scale, although he does have a strong following of supporters, which is evidenced by the fact that he won national straw polls in 2007 and 2011, and took second place behind Michele Bachmann in the 2011 Ames straw poll. Although straw polls are not scientific, they are indicative of which candidates are able to garner support, even if the support is sometimes temporary.

Visual representation of Bloomberg Iowa caucus poll: Image based on data from Bloomberg

Those who observe the Iowa Bloomberg poll should note that when respondents were asked which candidates have contacted them via campaign efforts, 67 percent stated they’ve been contacted by the Paul campaign and 61 percent stated they’ve been contacted by the Bachmann campaign. Paul and Bachmann had the two highest percentages for this question. It can be reasonably concluded that they may have been inspired by their straw poll successes to invest a great deal of resources into campaigning in Iowa. While this effort seems to have paid off for Paul, Bachmann’s poor performance may be the result of some more deep-seated issues within her campaign.

As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?

The winner of the Iowa caucuses will get a substantial boost in media coverage and popularity going into additional primaries, but a poll of Iowa Republicans should not be equated to the sentiments of the entire country, or of Republicans in other states.  Out of the last five Republican Iowa caucuses where there was more than one candidate on the ballot, the winner went on to secure the national nomination twice: in 2000 with the nomination of George W. Bush, and in 1996 with the nomination of Bob Dole.  In 2008, 1988 and 1980 a candidate other than the winner of the Iowa caucuses went on the secure the party nomination.

Although the Iowa Bloomberg poll was conducted scientifically, a more accurate prediction of national results can be obtained when this poll is considered along with aggregate polls conducted in individual swing states and on a nationwide level.

Sources

McCormick, John. Romney Two-Way Race Now Four-Way Republican Dead Heat in Iowa. Bloomberg. Accessed November 16, 2011

Fox News. Bachmann Wins Iowa Straw Poll, Cements Her Top-Tier Status in GOP Race. Accessed November 16, 2011.

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