January 4, 2012

Six Telling Findings from the Iowa Caucuses

Here are several findings from polling of voters on the day of the Iowa caucuses that may — or may not — prove to be important as the GOP race moves on to New Hampshire and beyond. 

Romney Gets 1% of “True Conservative” Voters.  A quarter of Iowa caucus voters said the most important candidate quality was that they be a “true conservative.” Among these voters, just 1% supported Romney; 37% backed Paul and 36% supported Santorum.

Number of Late Deciders Spikes. Nearly half of Iowa caucus voters (46%) said they decided their vote on the day of the caucuses or in the days leading up to them. Four years ago, 30% said they decided on the day of the voting or in the three days before. Santorum won about a third of the votes from late deciders, more than any other candidate.

The Issue Divides. Just 13% said that abortion was the most important issue in choosing a candidate; these voters overwhelmingly backed Santorum. Far more Iowa caucus voters rated the economy (42%) and budget deficit (34%) as most important: The former group supported Romney, while deficit hawks supported Paul.

More Independents. Independents comprised nearly a quarter (23%) of GOP caucus voters, up from 13% four years ago. As was the case in 2008, roughly six-in-ten caucus voters were white evangelicals.

Republicans Split Their Votes. Three-quarters of caucus voters were Republicans and they split their votes almost evenly between Santorum (29%) and Romney (27%). Paul drew a sizable plurality (43%) among self-described independents.

Tea Party vs. Non-Tea Party. Santorum led Romney by 11 points among Tea Party Republicans (and by 19 points among strong GOP supporters of the movement). By contrast, Romney led Santorum by a wide margin (39% to 21%) among non-Tea Party Republicans.