Looking at candidates' attributes underscores their liabilities as well as their strengths. In the most striking example, only a quarter of Obama's own supporters say he has the best experience in the field, as do just 45 percent of Edwards' supporters -- compared with 89 percent of Clinton's. Indeed, Obama's own supporters are almost twice as likely to say Clinton has the best experience as to say Obama does.
But just 42 percent of Clinton's own backers call her the most likable candidate, and just under half of her supporters (48 percent) call her the most honest and trustworthy. By contrast, 75 percent of Obama's supporters call him the most trustworthy, and 69 percent of Edwards' supporters say the same about their guy.
Clinton's pushbacks, again, are strength and experience. Three-quarters of her supporters call her the strongest leader in the race; among Edwards' supporters just 54 percent say he's the strongest leader (Obama, 59 percent). In a corollary, 73 percent of Clinton's supporters say she's the candidate best able to deal with the situation in Iraq, while barely over half of Obama's or Edwards' supporters see their candidate as best on Iraq. And Iraq is the issue likely caucus-goers want to hear about most.
On issues, respondents in this poll were asked what questions they'd ask the candidates in a debate if they had the chance. Most common topics were the Iraq War, mentioned by 32 percent, and health care, 21 percent, with all others in single digits. There aren't significant differences in voter preferences on the basis of these issues.
To the extent there are differences between attitudes in Iowa and the nation as a whole, part may lie in the difference of Iowa. Among them, according to federal data:
Just 55 percent of Iowans live in or around a major population center, compared with 83 percent of all Americans. Thirty-nine percent of Iowans live in outright rural areas, compared with 21 percent of the national population.
Ninety-two percent of Iowans are non-Hispanic whites, compared with 67 percent of the nation's population.
Among the country's 251 cities with more than 100,000 people, Iowa's biggest cities rank 107th (Des Moines) and 190th (Cedar Rapids).
Four percent of Iowans were born in a foreign country, compared with 12 percent of all Americans. Of the 1.1 million immigrants admitted legally to the country in 2005, 4,536 settled in Iowa, fewer than one-half of 1 percent.
This survey was conducted by telephone calls to a random sample of Iowa homes with landline phone service. Adults identified as likely Democratic caucus-goers accounted for 12 percent of respondents; with an adult population of 2.2 million in Iowa, that projects to caucus turnout of 260,000.
A more restrictive likely voter definition, winnowing down to half that turnout, or about what it was in 2004, does not make a statistically significant difference in the estimate -- Edwards, 28 percent; Obama, 27 percent; and Clinton, 23 percent, all within sampling tolerances given the relatively small sample size. The more inclusive definition was used for more reliable subgroup analysis.