I haven’t had a chance to write about the entrance polling done of 2016 Republican Iowa Caucus goers, but I think we can extrapolate a few lessons about the Iowa Caucuses for Republicans.
1. Evangelicals dominate the Iowa Caucuses again.
In 2012 57% of those polled identified themselves as evangelical. In 2016 62% identified themselves as evangelicals or born-again Christians.
This also explains why pre-Caucus polling was not accurate. Most pollsters didn’t include evangelicals when weighting their polls, and the few I saw who did it was typically under 40%.
Ted Cruz lead among evangelicals by 12 points over Donald Trump and Marco Rubio who had 21% each of evangelical support.
Cruz also led overwhelmingly among those who identified themselves as “very conservative” who comprised of 40% of those polled. 44% supported Cruz, Trump was 23 points behind.
A sub lesson would be Cruz knew where to find his voters, among evangelicals and “very conservative” voters, and he led convincingly among both groups as a testament to his targeted voter outreach.
2. Never Focus Your Campaign on College Campuses
Rand Paul invested heavily into college students as part of his campaign strategy trying to get 10,000 college students to caucus for him.
That was a miserable failure. Among 17-29 year-olds who comprised 12% of caucus goers only 13% caucused for Paul which was his best age bracket, but Cruz led among younger Iowans with 27%.
3. It’s government spending, stupid.
32% of caucus goers said that government spending was the issue they cared most about. Cruz led that category over Rubio by six points and Trump by eight points.
4. Iowans want a candidate who shares their values.
“Sharing my values” was the top candidate quality for 42% of Iowa Republican caucus goers and Cruz won among these voters overwhelmingly with 38%. Trump only had 5% support among these voters.
5. Candidate attack ads didn’t hurt Cruz, but the last debate and mailers may have.
Cruz led among caucus goers who made their “in the last month” with 32% and “sometime last week” 36%. So the negative attacks made by candidates and ads didn’t seem to hurt Cruz. It’s hard to say whether the negative mailer and the last debate hurt Cruz in the last few days, but Marco Rubio did win among voters who decided the day of the Iowa Caucuses – 28% and “in the last few days” – 31%. Cruz was second in those categories trailing Rubio by six points and four points respectively. Fewer late deciders went for Trump with only 15% deciding to back Trump on Caucus day and 13% in the few days before.
6. Veteran caucus goers didn’t favor Trump, and Trump didn’t dominate first-time caucus goers.
As expected veteran caucus goers were not Trump’s target group. They went for Cruz 32% and then Rubio 24%. Trump placed third with 19%. Trump did not dominate among first-time caucus goers. 30% of those voters said they supported Trump, but Cruz (23%) and Rubio (22%) also brought out first-time caucus goers.