July 20th, 2024

Most Trump supporters in Iowa caucuses say they knew they’d support him all along, AP VoteCast shows

By Josh Boak And Linley Sanders, The Associated Press on January 15, 2024.

The Iowa State Capitol building is viewed, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024 in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

WASHINGTON (AP) – In some ways, Iowa’s Republican caucuses were practically over before they began, with Donald Trump cultivating a deep network of support over three presidential runs.

About 7 in 10 Iowans who caucused for Trump on Monday night said they have known all along that they would support a man who has remade the Republican Party through his “Make America Great Again” political movement. Trump was carried to victory by the majority of caucusgoers who say they back it, a sign of his growing influence in a state that denied him a victory eight years ago.

His chief challengers – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy – tried to carve out their own coalitions. But none could match the demographic edges enjoyed by Trump in this year’s first presidential contest, according to the findings from AP VoteCast.

Trump performed strongly in small town and rural communities, where about 6 in 10 caucusgoers said they live. He won with white evangelical Christians, who are nearly half of the caucusgoers. He excelled among those without a college degree.

If there is a reason for pause in his Iowa success, it is that many of the must-win states in the November general election are more urban, more suburban, more racially diverse and full of more college graduates than in Iowa.

AP VoteCast is a survey of more than 1,500 voters who said they planned to take part in the caucuses. The survey is conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

HOW TRUMP WON IN IOWA

The 77-year-old Trump entered Iowa as the caucus favorite, and AP VoteCast showed why he has become a juggernaut among GOP voters in the state.

The demographics favored him, but so did the issues that people prioritized: immigration and the economy.

Among the nearly 4 in 10 Iowa caucusgoers who identified immigration as the most important issue for the nation, roughly two-thirds back Trump. Those participating in the caucuses agreed with his hard-line stance on finding ways to limit immigration.

About 9 in 10 back building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, with about 7 in 10 expressing strong support for the idea first championed by Trump during his 2016 campaign. The vast majority, about three-quarters, say immigrants hurt the United States, an indication there is a desire to reduce overall immigration levels.

About one-third of caucusgoers prioritized the economy. Of those who did, about half support Trump.

POTENTIAL WEAKNESSES FOR TRUMP

Iowa also exposed some national vulnerabilities for Trump, who lost his 2020 reelection bid to Democrat Joe Biden.

The suburbs are a relative weakness for Trump. That’s a key challenge because AP VoteCast showed nearly half of voters in the 2020 general election said they lived in the suburbs. Only about 4 in 10 of Iowa Republicans in the suburbs support him. Trump still bests his closest rivals in the suburbs, but not as strongly as he does in other areas. About one-quarter of Iowa caucusgoers in the suburbs supported Haley and about 2 in 10 caucused for DeSantis.

Nor does Trump have as much appeal with college graduates. About 2 in 10 of Trump’s Iowa backers hold a college degree, compared with roughly half of those who backed Haley and DeSantis.

And there are Trump’s legal troubles.

He was indicted multiple times in 2023 and faces the risk of one or more criminal convictions. But that appears so far to have done little damage to his standing with Republican voters.

Still, about one-quarter say Trump has done something illegal when it comes to at least one of the legal cases he is facing: his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, his alleged attempts to interfere in the vote count in the 2020 presidential election or the discovery of classified documents at his Florida home that were supposed to be in government custody.

THE CHALLENGERS’ MODEST STRENGTHS

Trump’s GOP rivals had their own coalitions, just nothing large enough to dislodge the former president.

Haley is something of an anti-Trump option, even though she was his U.N. ambassador.

She was the top candidate of GOP caucusgoers who say Trump did something illegal when it comes to at least one of the criminal cases against him. Among those who say they are caucusing for Haley, about 4 in 10 voted in the 2020 presidential election for Biden. Haley also appears competitive with Trump among people who say foreign policy is the top issue facing the country.

DeSantis performs best among the caucusgoers dissatisfied with Trump but who said they would ultimately vote for him in the general election. DeSantis’ supporters are more likely than those for other candidates to say they think abortion should always be illegal.

About 3 in 10 caucusgoers Ramaswamy are under age 30, compared with only about 1 in 10 of those backing any of the other top candidates. Ramaswamy, 38, has tried to emphasize his youth as an advantage.

NO TO THE STATUS QUO

Caucusgoers are giving Republicans the green light to dramatically alter how the federal government operates. Some showed an exhaustion with what they perceive to be politics as usual and a distrust of government institutions.

For many, they are envisioning something of a demolition project for how the country runs. About 3 in 10 say they are seeking a complete and total upheaval. About an additional 6 in 10 caucusgoers say they want substantial changes.

The vast majority of caucusgoers trust elections, but about 4 in 10 are not too confident or not at all confident in the integrity of U.S. elections. Nearly 6 in 10 have little to no confidence in the American legal system.

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AP VoteCast is a survey of the American electorate conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research for AP and Fox News. The survey of 1,597 voters was conducted for eight days, concluding as the caucuses begin. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The survey combines a random sample of registered voters drawn from state voter files and self-identified registered voters selected from nonprobability online panels. The margin of sampling error for voters is estimated to be plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Find more details about AP VoteCast’s methodology at https://ap.org/votecast.

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For the latest updates on the Iowa caucuses, follow the AP’s live coverage. Follow the AP’s coverage of the 2024 election at https://apnews.com/hub/election-2024

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