An abortive rally and an expanding field of challengers hasn’t hurt Donald Trump’s standing in Iowa, according to a new poll from Emerson College. In results released Thursday morning, 62% of Republican voters indicated they would choose Trump as the party’s nominee, giving the former president a 3-to-1 margin over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who clocked in at 20%. Mike Pence and Nikki Haley are tied for third with 5%.
DeSantis, who formally declared his run Wednesday during a Twitter livestream with Elon Musk, has long been considered the most significant challenger to Trump for the GOP nomination, but the gap between the two has been expanding. Although the governor made a pair of widely covered visits to Iowa earlier this month, any corresponding boost in the polls has yet to materialize. The Emerson survey places him about on par with the current RCP national average.
Nonetheless, the DeSantis campaign may have exposed a fault line within the GOP’s base. The new poll found that although Trump was preferred by Republican voters across the board, he was especially favored by those under the age of 35 (75%) and without a college degree (70%). DeSantis is much closer among Republicans with a postgraduate degree.
The poll found that either candidate would beat President Biden handily in Iowa if the election were held today. A rematch between Trump and Biden shows a 49%-38% Trump lead in the Hawkeye State, with 10% voting third party and 6% undecided. DeSantis leads Biden 45%-38%.
Despite this — and despite a meager 35% job approval rating in the state — Iowa Democrats remain united behind Biden. Emerson found 69% of them ready to support his reelection in 2024. Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. comes in a distant second at 11%.
The survey also showed that the top concern among Iowans is the economy, with 31% of all voters citing it as the most important issue facing their state. This was followed by education (15%), “threats to democracy” (15%), immigration (10%), abortion access (9%), and health care (8%).
Election integrity continues to be an especially divisive issue. Although the majority of those polled stated that Joe Biden’s 2020 victory was legitimate, 46% of Iowa voters — including 43% of independents — said it was not. There was, predictably, a split along party lines: 91% of Democrats believe the election results to be sound, and 78% of Republicans do not.
Iowans are also anxious for their state’s caucus to retain its first-in-the-nation status, a roughly 50-year-old tradition that has cemented Iowa as a cornerstone of the American political landscape and transformed the sparsely populated, rural state into a kind of presidential power broker. Its status has been threatened this year following a move by Democrats to swap Iowa with South Carolina in their primary lineup.
About three-fourths of voters found it “very” (40%) or “somewhat” (34%) important that Iowa keep its perch as first in the nation. Republicans were particularly animated by the issue, with 86% saying it was important.
Voters in Iowa are also divided, though less informed, when it comes to the looming prospect of America’s first-ever default on its national debt. Half of them (49%) are against raising the debt ceiling, compared to 36% in favor, with 16% unsure.
The one area where Iowans from both parties unequivocally agreed? The need for televised presidential debates. A whopping 92% of all caucus voters found that participation in debates was important prior to making a decision. Trump has cited his poll numbers as proof that he need not debate with any of his party’s numerous upstart candidates. Iowans do not agree.
Emerson’s poll was conducted May 19-23 among 1,064 registered voters. The margin of error is roughly 2.9 percentage points.