HUFFPOLLSTER: Donald Trump Is Pulling Ahead In Iowa, But Needs Record Turnout To Win

Trump's chances rest on getting tens of thousands of new voters to caucus.

Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump need high turnout in order to win in Iowa. Americans don’t see much difference between candidates’ ideology, and they’re not sure what party leaders want either. This is HuffPollster for Thursday, January 28, 2016.

TRUMP CONTINUES TO DEFY SKEPTICS - New polls in Iowa and New Hampshire show Donald Trump sitting comfortably atop the rest of the Republican field. The Iowa GOP contest has gone from a near-tie between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) earlier this week to an average seven-point advantage for Trump. An NBC/WSJ/Marist poll out Thursday morning shows that 76 percent of Trump’s supporters are firmly committed to him, while 58 percent of Cruz’s are sure of their choice. [Marist]

But he'll need sky-high turnout - However, pollsters are finding that Trump’s support is strongest among those who haven’t participated in caucuses in the past. Monmouth: "Based on past voting history and voters’ stated intentions to attend this year’s caucuses, the current poll estimates turnout will be 170,000 voters, which would far surpass the 122,000 record GOP turnout from four years ago. Increasing the poll’s turnout projection to 200,000 voters widens Trump’s lead to 32% over 21% for Cruz, with Rubio at 16% and Carson at 9%. Decreasing the turnout projection to 130,000 voters, which would still be a record level, puts the race in a tie at 26% for Trump and 26% for Cruz, with Rubio at 15% and Carson at 12%"  [Monmouth]

Trump has a runaway lead in New Hampshire - In the second state to vote, Trump enjoys a nearly 20-point lead over his closest rivals. The more interesting story is that Ohio Gov. John Kasich has quietly slipped into second place ahead of Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla). The race remains tight between those three, with only about 2 percentage points separating second from fourth. [Emerson College, Marist]

DEMOCRATIC RACES HAVE TURNED INTERESTING TOO - Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has steadily gained on Hillary Clinton in Iowa, where she leads, on average, by less than half a percentage point. But as with the Republicans, pollsters have found that turnout will matter hugely in the outcome. Sanders supporters are younger and have less history of participating in caucuses than Clinton’s. The cliché is true: It will all come down to turnout. [Marist]

Sanders strong in New Hampshire - Unless there’s a substantial change after Iowa, Sanders looks like the overwhelming favorite to win New Hampshire. [Emerson College, Marist]

NO BUMP IN IOWA VOTER REGISTRATION YET - Gideon Resnick: "If the major political parties had some trick up their sleeves to get more voters registered ahead of the Iowa caucus, it hasn’t happened yet. With under a week left until people vote for the first time in 2016, the number of registered Democrats and Republicans has remained fairly static in the last six months. So the big crowds at rallies for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump—where they boast of attracting new caucus goers in droves—hasn’t translated into big gains when it comes to registered support." [Daily Beast]

AMERICANS ONLY SEE MINOR DIFFERENCES IN CANDIDATES’ IDEOLOGY -  Michael Pollard and Joshua Mendelsohn: "Although much has been written about the differences between 'establishment' and'outsider' candidates in the U.S. presidential election, voters don't see each party's candidates as very ideologically different….The average political spectrum scores for each candidate, and of survey respondents themselves, are presented in the figure, ranging from very liberal on the left, to very conservative on the right….Republicans reported on their personal political viewpoint (Self [R]) as did Democrats (Self [D])....Among the Republican candidates, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson are rated to have more conservative political viewpoints than Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, and Jeb Bush. Among Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders is rated to have a more liberal political viewpoint than Hillary Clinton. The difference is relatively small in size but statistically significant." [RAND]

The study also shows how Donald Trump has created a large coalition of supporters. - Michael Tesler: “Commentators have argued for months that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has the potential to unite white Americans’ ethnic and economic anxieties into a powerful populist coalition….New data show just how successful Trump has been….the Trump coalition unites resentment of minority groups with support for economically progressive policies….[E]conomically progressive positions, combined with Trump’s harsh rhetoric about minority groups, seem to have created a powerful populist coalition that has made Trump the front-runner heading into the Iowa caucuses.” [Monkey Cage]

GOP VOTERS DON'T HAVE A CLUE ON WHICH CANDIDATES REPUBLICAN LEADERS PREFER - HuffPollster: "The continued polling dominance of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and businessman Donald Trump has left many Republican leaders exasperated, and rank-and-file voters pretty much clueless about who their party would rather see as the nominee. By this point in an election cycle, voters often have a general sense of where the political establishment stands. This year, though, the Republican Party hasn't decided much of anything...So perhaps it's not surprising that, when asked whether party leaders would prefer a Trump or Cruz victory, Republican and Republican-leaning voters had no idea. In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, 38 percent thought most political leaders in the Republican Party would prefer Cruz to Trump, while a near-identical 36 percent thought the opposite."[HuffPost]

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls.You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling.

OBAMACARE NOT ON AMERICANS’ PRIORITY LIST FOR ELECTION - Bianca DiJulio, Jamie Firth, Ashley Kirzinger, and Mollyann Brodie: “Despite the ongoing debate between Republican lawmakers and President Obama on the future of the 2010 health care law, the ACA is only one of many issues that may impact voting decisions, with nearly a quarter (23 percent) saying it’s extremely important, but only four percent choosing it as the MOST important issue. Across all issues included in the poll, terrorism (38 percent) and the economy/jobs (34 percent) are the top two issues for voters at this point in the election. In addition, about 3 in 10 voters (28 percent) say the personal cost of health care and health insurance is extremely important and six percent say it is MOST important, which is similar to the shares of voters who say the same about a number of other issues. Across parties, neither the ACA nor the cost of their health care rank higher than fourth in what voters say will be most important.” [Kaiser Family Foundation]

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THURSDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-National polls show Trump and Clinton maintaining solid leads. [PRRI, Purple Strategies]

-The idea of “President Trump” makes nearly 70 percent of Americans nervous. [WashPost]

-Larry Sabato and Kyle Kondik provide an overview of how things might play out in Iowa. [Crystal Ball]

-Iowa’s white Christian population has shrunk over the last 8 years. [PRRI]

-Joshua Tucker suggests picking a GOP “establishment” candidate by drawing names out of a hat. [Monkey Cage]

-Claire Malone profiles Iowa pollster Ann Selzer. [538]

-Beware of outlier polls, Jeb Bush edition. [HuffPost]

-Most Americans aren’t terribly optimistic about the situation in the U.S. [Gallup, CNN]

-Americans are sorting themselves more and more into politically and demographically homogeneous communities. [Pew]

-Four in ten Trump supporters say they would continue to support him even if he shot someone. [Bloomberg]

-What Americans think “natural” means on food labels isn’t necessarily what it means. [HuffPost]


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the results of a PRRI report on Iowa's religious composition.