Iowa or Not, Trump Maintains Huge Lead

Rubio speaks as, from left, Bush, Trump and Carson listen at the GOP presidential debate on CNBC. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

Whether or not he wins the Iowa caucuses on Monday, real estate mogul Donald Trump retains a massive lead over the rest of the Republican field, a new Morning Consult poll finds, underscoring the threat his campaign poses to more traditional candidates hoping to arrest his march toward the party’s presidential nomination.

Fully 41 percent of registered voters who plan to participate in the Republican primary process — including 40 percent of self-identified Republicans and 39 percent of those who characterize themselves as conservative — say they plan to back the bombastic billionaire.

Only one other candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, cracks into double digits, at 12 percent.

Trump leads the field by sizable margins across age, economic, political, geographic and demographic groups. He is the favorite of those voters who say national security issues are their greatest concern, and of those who choose economic issues. Trump even leads Cruz, by a 35 percent to 16 percent margin, among evangelical voters.

CandidateRegistered Voters (Jan 29-Feb 1)Registered Voters (Jan 21-Jan 24)Registered Voters (Jan 14-Jan 17)Registered Voters (Jan 8-Jan 10)
Donald Trump41%40%39%42%
Ted Cruz12%11%13%10%
Ben Carson9%10%8%12%
Marco Rubio8%9%9%9%
Jeb Bush7%7%7%5%
Chris Christie3%3%3%4%
Mike Huckabee3%3%3%2%
Rand Paul3%2%3%3%
John Kasich2%2%2%2%
Carly Fiorina1%1%2%1%
Rick Santorum1%1%1%1%
Someone Else1%2%2%2%
Don't Know/No Opinion8%10%9%8%

Though some outside groups have begun running advertisements challenging Trump’s credentials, positions and temperament, the New Yorker remains the most popular candidate among Republican voters, 64 percent of whom say they view him favorably. Only three other Republicans — Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson — are seen favorably by more than half of self-identified Republicans.

But Republicans who worry about Trump’s appeal across party lines are right to be concerned. Among all registered voters, 56 percent say they see Trump unfavorably, including 52 percent of self-identified independents, 57 percent of moderates and 63 percent of those who have attained a bachelor’s degree or more. More than seven in 10 African Americans and 56 percent of Hispanic voters have an unfavorable view of the Republican front-runner.

In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, half of those who said they would participate in that party’s nominating contest support former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while 34 percent back Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

CandidateRegistered Voters
(Jan 29–Feb 1)
Registered Voters
(Jan 21-24)
Registered Voters
(Jan 14-17)
Registered Voters
(Jan 8-10)
Hillary Clinton50%48%54%49%
Bernie Sanders34%31%30%32%
Martin O'Malley5%2%2%3%
Someone Else5%6%5%5%
Don't Know/No Opinion9%12%10%10%

Sanders has risen steadily in Morning Consult surveys over the last several months, and early-state surveys suggest he is poised to win New Hampshire’s primary next week by a wide margin. He may even score an upset Monday night; surveys show Sanders running neck and neck with Clinton in Iowa.

But Clinton maintains a significant lead among those who call themselves Democrats, and especially large margins among African American and Hispanic voters. Sanders has struggled to introduce himself to both groups, which are gaining strength as pillars of the emerging Democratic coalition.

For his part, Sanders does best among the youngest cohort of voters. Those between 18 and 29 years old favor Sanders by a 49- to 38-percent margin; Clinton wins majority support from all other age groups.

Both Democrats are more popular among their base voters than Republicans are among theirs. More than three quarters of self-identified Democrats, 77 percent, say they view Clinton favorably, while 70 percent say the same about Sanders.

And both Democrats easily outpace their Republican rivals in hypothetical three-way matchups, which include former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Sanders leads the two New York billionaires with 41 percent, compared with 34 percent for Trump and 11 percent for Bloomberg; Clinton’s numbers are nearly identical. Both Democrats lead Cruz and Bloomberg by even wider margins.

The Morning Consult survey polled 3,739 registered voters between Jan. 29 and Feb. 1, for a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. Subsamples of 1,928 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents 1,491 self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning independents carry margins of error of plus or minus 2.2 points and 2.5 points, respectively.