With just over a week until the first 2016 election contest, Donald Trump takes the lead in Iowa -- and maintains his big advantage in New Hampshire.
That’s according to the latest round of Fox News state polls on the Republican presidential nomination contest.
Trump bests Ted Cruz in Iowa and now receives 34 percent support among Republican caucus-goers. Trump was at 23 percent in the Fox News Poll two weeks ago (January 4-7).
Cruz is second with 23 percent -- down a touch from 27 percent. Marco Rubio comes in third with 12 percent, down from 15 percent. No others garner double-digit support.
Among caucus-goers who identify as “very” conservative, Cruz was up by 18 points over Trump earlier this month. Now they each receive about a third among this group (Cruz 34 percent vs. Trump 33 percent).
There’s been a similar shift among white evangelical Christians. Cruz’s 14-point advantage is now down to a 2-point edge.
A lot has happened in the intervening two weeks. Fox Business Network hosted a Republican debate where Trump questioned Cruz’s eligibility to be president, and Cruz attacked Trump’s liberal “New York values.” On Tuesday, Gov. Terry Branstad urged his fellow Iowans to vote against Cruz because of his opposition to ethanol -- and former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Trump.
Republican pollster Daron Shaw says, “We tend to over-interpret every little thing in a presidential race, but here we actually have solid evidence Trump didn't just win last week in Iowa -- he won it by enough to put some distance between himself and Cruz.” Shaw conducts the Fox News Poll with Democratic pollster Chris Anderson.
But a lot can change before Iowans caucus February 1.
A third of Republican caucus-goers say they may change their mind (33 percent). Even one in four Trump supporters says they may ultimately go with another candidate (25 percent).
Cruz tops the list when GOP caucus-goers are asked their second-choice candidate. When first and second-choice preferences are combined, it’s extremely tight between Trump (48 percent) and Cruz (45 percent).
That’s because 20 percent of Iowa Republican caucus-goers are so negative on Trump they say they would “refuse” to vote for him over the Democrat in November, while fewer say the same of Cruz (11 percent). Another 14 percent say they would stay home if the nominee is Jeb Bush.
Here’s how the rest of the field stands: Ben Carson is at 7 percent, Rand Paul is at 6 percent, Bush and Chris Christie each get 4 percent, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich and Rick Santorum tie at 2 percent, and Carly Fiorina gets 1 percent.
More than a third who say they will attend a Republican caucus this year have never gone before (38 percent). Many of these first-time attendees, 43 percent, are supporting Trump, while 19 percent favor Cruz and 14 percent Rubio. The poll can’t predict how many from this group will actually show up.
Among just those Republicans who have caucused before, it’s a 3-point race: Trump 28 percent vs. Cruz 25 percent. Another 10 percent go for Rubio.
True conservative values is the top characteristic GOP caucus-goers want in their party’s nominee (27 percent), closely followed by telling it like it is (24 percent) and being a strong leader (23 percent). Those traits outrank nominating someone who can win in November (9 percent) or has the right experience (7 percent).
Unlike Iowa, there has been little movement in the New Hampshire Republican race. Trump continues to garner more than twice the support of his nearest competitors.
The Fox News poll shows Trump at 31 percent (down 2 points), Cruz at 14 percent (up 2 points) and Rubio at 13 percent (down 2 points).
Kasich is at 9 percent, Bush and Christie each receive 7 percent, Carson and Paul tie at 5 percent, while Fiorina gets 3 percent, and Huckabee 1 percent.
Despite dominating the NH race, Trump also tops the list as the nominee who would make Republicans stay home in November: 26 percent say they would refuse to vote for Trump against the Democrat. Fifteen percent say the same of Bush, 14 percent feel that way about Cruz, and 12 percent about Rubio.
Over half of likely Republican primary voters in the Granite State say they are certain to vote for their candidate, while 36 percent could still shift their support.
Granite Staters also want slightly different traits in their nominee than their Iowa counterparts. NH GOP primary voters want a strong leader (27 percent) and someone who tells it like it is (21 percent) more than a nominee who has true conservative values (15 percent), is electable (13 percent), or has the right experience (12 percent).
The Fox News Poll is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R). These polls were conducted January 18-21, 2016, by telephone (landline and cellphone) with live interviewers.
The New Hampshire poll was among a sample of 801 registered voters selected from a statewide voter file. Results based on the sample of 401 Republican primary voters have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus five percentage points.
In Iowa, the poll was among a sample of 801 registered voters selected from a statewide voter file. Results based on the sample of 378 Republican caucus-goers have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus five percentage points.