Over the past two weeks, TargetPoint Consulting conducted a series of statewide surveys in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina on behalf of the Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions. These surveys examined the current state of public opinion among likely Republican Primary voters on a variety of important political issues, including the 2016 Presidential Election. These results provide a detailed look into the state of the Presidential race in these important early-voting states, while also providing insights into broader 2016 trends.
In the Iowa Caucuses, Scott Walker leads the field as the first choice of 21% of respondents. He leads all candidates by at least 10 points, and Jeb Bush is the only other candidate with double digit support in the state (10%). The numbers also reveal a crowded field behind Walker, as Mike Huckabee (9%), Rand Paul (8%), Ben Carson (7%), and Chris Christie (5%) each have the support of at least 5% of voters. The data also suggests that Walker has benefited from a positive recent media cycle, as a Des Moines Register poll from January 26th through January 29th showed Walker up just one point over nearest-rival Rand Paul.
Interestingly, younger primary voters appear to have considerably different preferences from the rest of Republican caucus-goers. Walker has the support of only 5% of voters aged 18-34, while Paul has the support of 31% of this group.
Early New Hampshire results suggest that the race in the nation’s first primary is even tighter than in Iowa. Jeb Bush leads all likely candidates with 15% of the vote, but Walker (11%) and Paul (10%) are both within five points of the lead. Christie (9%) and Huckabee (6%) round out the state’s top five finishers. These results closely mirror those from the WMUR poll from January 22nd through February 3rd, which showed Bush leading with 17%, Walker in second with 12%, and Paul, Christie, and Huckabee all tied with 9%.
A closer look at the underlying numbers suggests that the top candidates each have slightly differing bases of support. Among self-identified strong Republicans, Walker is the top pick with 17% of the vote. Jeb Bush is the clear leader among weak Republicans, collecting 22% of their support, followed by 11% for Chris Christie. And the libertarian-leaning Paul finds his strongest support among Independents, where he and Bush each collect 13% of the vote.
The results in Nevada are good news for Walker, who leads the field with 18% of the vote. Bush is close behind with 12%, followed by Paul at 9%. Nevada could also serve as fertile ground for two lesser-discussed candidates, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, who each receive 7% of the votes in the state. However, in order to gain traction they would likely need to break into Walker’s broad base of support, as he currently leads in all three geographic regions of the state.
Scott Walker also leads the field in the first southern state of South Carolina, where he collects 12% of the vote. However native son Lindsey Graham sits right behind him at 11%, followed closely by Huckabee (10%) and Bush (9%). A recent Gravis Marketing poll that did not include Graham showed Bush leading the race with 18%, suggesting that he has the most to gain if the senior Senator from South Carolina decides against running in 2016. Bush could look specifically to the Southern portion of the state for gains, as Graham currently collects 21% of the vote in this region, compared to Bush’s 5%.
In conclusion, the four polls outline a few broad trends. First, Governor Walker has solidified his status as a serious contender for the nomination, as he leads the race in three of the four states polled. Yet Bush should still be viewed as a top-tier candidate, as he holds a lead in New Hampshire and appears poised to benefit in South Carolina if Senator Graham decides not to enter the race. And while no other candidate can currently match Walker and Bush’s consistent support, with at least 20% of voters in each state undecided, there is ample opportunity for other candidates to make significant gains.
Methodology: The sample size for these surveys is 400 likely Republican caucus/primary voters in Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina, and 3000 likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire. All interviews were conducted using live operator phone technology and were conducted by TargetPoint Consulting between January 30th and February 3rd. Cell phone users made up the following percentages of interviews in each poll: 14% in Iowa, 2% in New Hampshire, 31% in Nevada, and 30% in South Carolina.