New polls out of Iowa show Paul, Romney fighting for the top
With less than a week to go before the Iowa caucus, the latest polls out of the Hawkeye State from CNN and Public Policy Polling show Ron Paul and Mitt Romney fighting for the top and Newt Gingrich falling.
The more shocking of the two polls is from CNN, who hasn’t conducted a survey in Iowa since earlier this month. As you can see below, both Paul and Romney have added modest support since the last poll (in parentesis to the side) while Gingrich has fallen substantially. But the wrinkle in that Santorum’s support has jumped by double-digits (remember what I wrote about him on Monday…don’t underestimate him).
- Mitt Romney: 25% (+5)
- Ron Paul: 22% (+5)
- Rick Santorum: 16% (+11)
- Newt Gingrich: 14% (-19)
- Rick Perry: 11% (+2)
- Michele Bachmann: 9% (+2)
- Jon Huntsman: 1% (—)
- None/No opinion: 2%
Public Policy Polling (PPP) also released polling on Tuesday, which I somehow overlooked, showing Paul still on top with Romney trailing him. PPP’s last poll from Iowa came out just before Christmas. You can also see that the uptick in Santorum’s support isn’t present as it is in the CNN poll.
- Ron Paul: 24% (+1)
- Mitt Romney: 20% (—)
- Newt Gingrich: 13% (-1)
- Michele Bachmann: 11% (+1)
- Rick Perry: 10% (—)
- Rick Santorum: 10% (—)
- Jon Huntsman: 4% (—)
- Other/Undecided: 5%
Now, you’re probably wondering why there is such a discrepancy between the two polls. It’s not uncommon to see this. It’s a matter of samples and methodology. Public Policy Polling explained one reason why there is a difference on Twitter shortly after CNN released their results:
If we only polled registered Republicans in Iowa like CNN we’d have Romney ahead of Paul too…not how the rules work though
They later noted that their own results would have been different had they limited the sample to registered Republicans:
Our IA poll just with Republicans: Romney 22, Paul 20. But with 24% of electorate that’s non-Republican: Paul 39, Romney 12
This is why we say the only poll that matters is the one taken on election day. Voter registeration, as PPP notes, doesn’t matter in Iowa. This primer on the caucus procedure sheds some light:
Iowans who wish to participate on Jan. 3 must first find the voting site of their local precinct. The venues tend to change every four years, so even longtime caucus-goers are advised to double-check with one of the campaigns, the Iowa Republican Party website, or their local newspaper.
There are 1,774 precincts in this year’s caucuses, and many of the state’s rural outposts will see just a trickle of participants. On the other hand, some of the more populous counties combine their precincts into one location, which means that thousands of caucus-goers will gather at a single location.
Once people start arriving at their caucus sites, they will be checked in and directed to their seats if they are already registered with the party. Non-Republican voters are allowed to register on site with the GOP upon providing a driver’s license or other photo ID with proof of residency and will be added instantly to the party’s registration rolls and can participate that night.
Seventeen-year-olds who will turn 18 by Nov. 6, 2012 are allowed to take part.
This plays well to Paul’s advantage, given many of his supporters are independents and voters that may not have participated in this process in the past. So while the CNN poll possibly underestimates Paul’s numbers, it does at least give us insight into what base Republicans in Iowa are thinking.