Trump Support in Iowa Eroding as He Stumps in Davenport
DES MOINES, Iowa — Former President Donald Trump is scheduled to appear in Davenport, Iowa, Monday night, ostensibly to deliver remarks on an “America First Education Policy.”
But as he preps to take the stage at the city’s Adler Theatre and the wheels slowly start turning on a presidential reelection bid launched late last year, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll suggests his support is eroding, placing him on a par with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis has yet to formally announce a presidential bid, but he made his first trip to Iowa on Friday to test the waters for a run.
The poll of 805 Iowans, including 257 self-identified Republicans, was released the same day, and if it contained any good news for both men, it was that former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is already a candidate, and former Vice President Mike Pence, who is considering entering the contest, trailed them both by substantial margins.
While many Iowans remain committed to Trump — 74% of Iowa Republicans said they would “likely” vote for him if he were the party’s nominee in the 2024 general election, only 47% said they would “definitely” vote for him and a lukewarm 27% said they’d “probably” vote for him.
In addition, 9% of poll participants said they would be unlikely to vote for Trump today, with 5% saying they would probably not vote for him and 4% saying they definitely would not vote for him.
Another 12% said they haven’t made up their minds on whether to vote for Trump or not, and 3% said they wouldn’t vote at all while 2% said they were unsure if they would.
That’s a big-time swing from the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll conducted in June 2021, that found 69% of Iowa Republicans would “definitely” vote for Trump in 2024 — some 22 percentage points higher than today.
At the same time, there were far fewer voters who were lukewarm on the question of Trump, with just 15% saying they’d “probably” vote for him if he got the nomination.
In 2021, just 4% said they would be unlikely to vote for Trump, while 2% said they probably would not vote for him and 2% said they definitely would not.
Two years ago, 10% of poll respondents said they hadn’t made up their minds on whether to vote for Trump, while 1% said they wouldn’t vote at all and 1% were unsure.
Trump ‘Favorability’ Falters
If Trump’s overall numbers in Iowa are sliding, his favorability rating may be doing even worse, according to a comparison of Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Polls.
A September 2021 poll showed Trump was viewed favorably by 91% of Iowa Republicans. That fell to 83% in October 2022, and today it is at 80%.
At the same time, Trump’s unfavorable numbers have climbed, with the percentage of Iowa Republicans viewing him unfavorably more than doubling — from 7% in 2021 to 18% today.
Among independent Iowans, 35% view Trump favorably. That’s down from 40% in October 2022. Meanwhile, 63% of independents view him unfavorably.
The margin of error of the poll is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
“Iowa is where the competition starts,” said J. Ann Selzer, director of the Des Moines Register’s Iowa poll. She is the president of Selzer & Co., a public opinion research firm.
In a statement to the Des Moines Register, she added, “Someone who has already held the office and who won the state twice would be presumed to be the front-runner, and I don’t know that we can say that at this point.
“There’s nothing locked in about Iowa for Donald Trump,” Selzer said.
Making his first campaign-style trip to Iowa last week, DeSantis attended a series of public events with Iowa’s popular Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.
About 74% of participants in the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll said they viewed him favorably, which placed him behind Trump’s 80%, but 20% said they weren’t sure about him, suggesting he has time to boost his numbers through additional campaign appearances.
As it is now, he is viewed unfavorably only by about 6% of Iowa Republicans.
Independent Iowans are nearly evenly split on DeSantis, with 35% viewing him favorably, 33% viewing him unfavorably and 32% saying they’re not sure.
Speaking in Davenport on Friday, DeSantis conceded the fact that he won the governorship by only half a percentage point in 2018, and recalled that he was advised to be “a little passive” as a result.
“I rejected that advice,” he said. “My view was I may have received 50% of the vote, but I earned 100% of the executive power, and I intend to use that.”
He said the result is that Florida has become “the promised land” for those seeking to escape the influence of woke “elites” because of his “leadership, vision and standing up for what’s right.”
His reward was a second term in the governor’s office after a victory by some 1.5 million votes.
“We said we’re going to go on offense. We’re going to find issues. I’m not going to wait for them to come to me,” DeSantis said, a clear indicator he plans to be back in the election arena soon.
“The woke mind virus is warping people,” he said at another point in his remarks, garnering loud applause. “Our state is where woke goes to die.”
Haley Still Largely an Unknown to Iowans
Haley, former South Carolina governor who also served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, was also in Iowa last week, holding events in Council Bluffs and Des Moines.
Since announcing her campaign in February, she’s been stumping in the state and others, advocating for a new generation of leaders while urging voters to look to the future rather than pine for the Trumpian past.
According to the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, Haley is viewed favorably by 53% of Iowa Republicans and unfavorably by 8%.
Her biggest challenge at the moment appears to be that she is less well-known to Iowans than either Trump or DeSantis, who has become a staple of conservative television outlets like Fox News.
Forty percent of Iowa Republicans told the pollsters they don’t know enough about her to form an opinion.
On Friday, Haley made an appearance with Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, discussing foreign policy at an event in Clive, Iowa, hosted by the Bastion Institute, a conservative foreign policy think tank.
During her remarks, Haley spoke at length about U.S. policy toward China and Ukraine, telling attendees that the two are intertwined.
“China is watching what we do with Ukraine,” she said at one point. “They’re watching who we’ve sanctioned. They’re watching what other countries are joining us. If they see us stay true to Ukraine with our allies, they will hold off on Taiwan.”
When challenged on that position, Haley responded by noting that Ukraine has “always sided with America.”
She also reiterated her contention that supporting Ukraine in its current fight isn’t about starting a war, but preventing future war.
“If we win this war, this will send a message to China, it’ll send a message to Iran. It’ll send a message to North Korea, it’ll send a message to Russia,” Haley said.
“If we lose this war, we need to take dictators at their word. They said Poland and the Baltics are next, and you’re looking at a world war,” she added.
Later Haley told attendees at the event that China needs to be held accountable by the international community for the spread of COVID-19.
“I think we need to go and look at the damages, the financial damages that happened, the life loss that happened, and every country in the world needs to know and hold them accountable,” Haley said. “And they’ve yet to do that, and the U.S. should be leading the charge on that.”
Pressed on why she is challenging her former boss for the Republican nomination in 2024, Haley told the forum’s attendees that she feared Trump would split support for the Republican Party in the upcoming election and hand the White House back to the Democrats.
Pence, Trump’s former vice president, will be appearing at a Bastion Institute event in Des Moines on March 18.
At present, the new polls state Pence, the former governor of Indiana, is viewed favorably by 66% of Iowa Republicans.
However, he also has the highest unfavorable rating of the four candidates included in the poll, coming in at 26%. An additional 7% said they still haven’t come to a firm opinion about him.
The last time the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll sought voters’ impressions of Pence, in June 2020, 86% viewed him favorably, while just 7% viewed him unfavorably and 7% were not sure.
Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue
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