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Trump’s caucus lead grows to majority, 51%, in most recent Iowa Poll

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Trump’s caucus lead grows to majority, 51%, in most recent Iowa Poll

Dec 11, 2023 | 12:49 pm ET
By Robin Opsahl
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Trump’s caucus lead grows to majority, 51%, in most recent Iowa Poll
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Former President Donald Trump was pulling away from his rivals in the race for the Iowa caucuses with 51% in the Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll published Dec. 11, 2023. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Former President Donald Trump expanded his lead in Iowa with less than five weeks left until the 2024 Republican caucuses, with more than half of likely GOP caucusgoers naming him as their first choice candidate in the Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll published Monday.

The latest poll found Trump is the top pick for 51% of poll takers who plan to participate in the Jan. 15 Iowa Republican caucuses. That’s an increase from 43% in the October Iowa Poll. Only two other candidates reached double digits: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rose 3 percentage points to 19%, breaking ahead of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley who stayed at 16%.

Several candidates have dropped their presidential campaigns as the Iowa caucuses draw near, including U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, former Vice President Mike Pence and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. While some political commentators predicted that a smaller field would help Republicans looking for an alternative to Trump rally around a single candidate, DeSantis and Haley did not see a major shift in the latest poll.

The slight increase for DeSantis comes after a heavy push by some prominent Iowa Republicans hoping to help DeSantis mount a serious challenge to Trump, who leads in early-state and national polls. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Family Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats both endorsed the Florida governor in November. Both endorsers have joined DeSantis on the campaign trail, telling Iowans they believe DeSantis is a better pick for the Republican nominee.

Vander Plaats said in early December that Trump is still a friend to him, but that supporting DeSantis was about picking a president who can “can spend his time defending this country versus defending himself.”

Reynolds has said she does not believe Trump can beat President Joe Biden in the 2024 general election.

“We can turn this country around,” the popular Republican governor told a crowd in Des Moines when she endorsed DeSantis. “But if we don’t get this next election right, if we don’t choose right, we are not going to get this country back.”

In other early states, Haley is doing better than DeSantis. She moved ahead in New Hampshire and South Carolina polls, according to data gathered by FiveThirtyEight. But in both these contests, Trump remains more than 20 percentage points ahead of his competitors. While she has also won high-profile endorsements in recent weeks — gaining the support of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed PAC, as well as from Wall Street figures like the CEO of BlackRock — her national momentum has not helped her footprint grow in Iowa.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy received 5% of likely GOP caucusgoers’ support. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has not campaigned in Iowa, polled at 4%, while former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson had 1% and Texas pastor and businessman Ryan Binkley polled at 0%. The poll found that 2% of respondents do not support any of the GOP candidates, and 3% said they were still not sure who their first choice for the caucuses is.

DeSantis and other candidates have emphasized on the campaign trail that Iowa breaks late, and that there is still time for another candidate to build momentum in the final weeks before the first-in-the-nation nominating contest. The Iowa Poll found that 46% of likely GOP caucusgoers said they could still be persuaded to support another candidate. Slightly more, 49%, said their choice was locked in.

Trump saw favorable poll results across the board — his favorability rating grew from 66% in October to 72% in the most recent poll — higher than that of DeSantis at 66% and Haley at 59%. Trump also took the lead as top choice among every demographic group tested in the poll: men and women, every age group, income bracket and education level, with self-identified Republicans and independent caucusgoers, as well as with first-time caucusgoers.

In the October poll, Trump and DeSantis were tied at 67% for their overall footprint, defined as how many polls respondents were actively considering them, or named them as a first or second choice candidate. While DeSantis stayed at 67%, Trump’s footprint grew to 76%, with the 51% who listed him as their first choice combined with 13% who said he was their second pick and 11% who said they are actively considering him.

Haley’s footprint decreased slightly from October, falling from 54% to 52%.

The Iowa Poll was conducted Dec. 2-7 by Selzer & Co., based on telephone interviews with 502 Iowans who said they are likely to attend the 2024 Republican caucuses. Results based on the full sample have  a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.