CNN Poll of Polls averages in Iowa find the Republican race shifting in Donald Trump's favor with Democratic caucus-goers still tightly divided.
The Democratic Poll of Polls, which was dead even last week with Clinton and Sanders both at 45%, now finds Sanders a tick ahead of Clinton, 46% to 44%. That's largely on the strength of the latest CNN/ORC Poll, which found Sanders holding an 8-point edge over Clinton in Iowa. The Iowa polling included in the new poll of polls is split: Two of the four find Sanders ahead by a significant margin, two find the race tight, within the margin of error but with Clinton ahead by a few points. Most polling of likely Democratic caucus goers in Iowa through December found Clinton well ahead of Sanders. The January results represent movement in favor of the Vermont senator.
The new Poll of Polls on the Republican side shows Trump moving ahead of Ted Cruz, with the New York businessman averaging 31% across the last four polls compared with Cruz's 26%. That's a sharp change when compared with last week's average, which showed Cruz a hair ahead of Trump, 27% to 25%. The new average wraps in two new polls which were conducted entirely after the January 14 GOP debate. Both of those polls found Trump holding a wide lead over Cruz, while some early January polling which showed Cruz and Trump running about evenly is now too old for inclusion.
The last few weeks have seen Trump step up his attacks on Cruz, and Cruz has begun to respond rather than shrug off the jabs. Both of the two new polls included in the average completed interviewing on Jan. 21, two days after Trump gained the endorsement of Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and onetime vice presidential candidate. Palin's support was viewed as a potential boon to Trump among the evangelical vote, a group which historically has made up a majority of Iowa's Republican caucus goers. Both of the two most recent polls found Trump and Cruz near even among white evangelicals.
In Iowa, turnout means everything
Aside from volatility, what the two races in Iowa have in common, according to the most recent polling on each side, is that whether upstart candidates can bring new voters to the state's caucus sites will largely determine the outcome.
The CNN/ORC Poll in Iowa this week found dramatically different results on both sides when looking at those who say they participated in each party's most recent contested caucuses -- those were in 2012 on the GOP side, and 2008 on the Democratic side. The Fox News poll in Iowa released Sunday found a similar dynamic on the GOP side. Both polls show those who have participated before are closely split between Trump and Cruz, while those who are new to the process are boosting Trump's numbers. A similar dynamic exists on the Democratic side, according to the CNN/ORC poll, with Clinton benefiting from strong support among those who've caucused before.
Nationally, more of the same
Updated CNN Poll of Polls averages nationally find that in both parties, overall preferences remain fairly stable. On the Republican side, Trump continues to hold a wide lead over Cruz, 35% to 19%, with Marco Rubio holding on to third place with 12%. Ben Carson dips one point to 9%, while Jeb Bush and the rest of the field remain at 5% or less. Last week's Poll of Polls found Trump at 34% to Cruz's 20%, suggesting the addition of two post-debate polls here did not have as meaningful an impact as in Iowa.
Over on the Democratic side of the contest, while Clinton's edge has narrowed slightly, the former secretary of state maintains a wide lead nationally over Sanders, 53% to 38%. Clinton has dropped one point since last week, while Sanders has gained two. Still, just one national poll conducted at any point since Joe Biden dropped out of the race in mid-October has found Clinton below 50%, suggesting the Sanders' surge is thus far limited to the early states where he's campaigning most vigorously.
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire
The most recent polling out of the Granite State, set to hold the first in the nation primary on February 9, finds established trends solidifying. In most Republican polling there, support for Trump has shifted from about a quarter in December to more than 30% in January. The real question on the Republican side appears to be who will win second place. Rubio and Cruz are the two candidates most consistently registering double-digits in polls there, with Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich clustered just behind them.
On the Democratic side, New Hampshire looks like something of a home-field advantage for Bernie Sanders, who represents the neighboring state of Vermont in the U.S. Senate. Sanders hasn't trailed Clinton by a significant margin in the state since last summer, and most recent polling puts him at 50% or higher there.
But would any of them make a good president?
Gallup and the Pew Research Center, both highly respected research organizations, have opted out of polling the horse race in 2016, but both released interesting findings this week on perceptions of the quality of the field.
Gallup found that nearly three in 10 Americans felt that none of the candidates running for office this year would make a good president. That's nearly three times as many as said they doubted any of the candidates would make a good president in 2008, the last time the U.S. held a presidential election without an incumbent on the ballot, and about twice as many as said so in 2000. Pew measured impressions of whether individual candidates would make a good president, and none of the nine tested were rated "good" or "great" by more than 35% of Americans.
After years of negative views on the way things are going in the country and dismal reviews of the work of both Congress and the president, just 37% in Gallup's survey said the way the presidential campaign is being conducted makes them "feel as though the electoral process is working as it should."
These findings seem to reflect the nation's sustained pessimism about the state of government and politics, and suggest whoever makes it through the gantlet of primary season will face a steep uphill battle to win the hearts and minds of the American public.