Trump trounces in Iowa, and election deniers and MAGA got him there: Entrance poll analysis

The candidates' late slogging through the snow may not have mattered.

January 16, 2024, 12:23 AM

Strong conservatives, older voters, MAGA fans, 2020 election deniers and less-educated Iowa Republicans piled in to help Donald Trump win Iowa's Republican caucuses on Monday night amid punishingly cold weather and depressed overall turnout, according to an analysis of entrance poll results.

The former president -- despite spending relatively minimal time in the state, despite past indications that the base was considering other options and despite notable challengers, who spent months campaigning against him -- had by far the widest margin of victory in any meaningfully contested Iowa Republican caucuses dating to their start in 1976.

Trump's support was so strong that 63% of caucusgoers said they'd consider him fit for office even if he were hypothetically convicted of a crime. He faces charges in four cases but denies all wrongdoing.

By a split of 63-32%, respondents to the entrance poll say they'd consider him fit for office despite a conviction, with 72% of the group saying he's fit also voting for Trump

Yet, even with his resounding win, some weaknesses were evident for Trump.

Voters check in at a caucus site at the Horizon Events Center, Jan. 15, 2024 in Clive, Iowa.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Iowa entrance poll, analyzed for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, found comparative shortfalls for the former president among younger, college-educated, moderate and independent voters.

Trump easily won caucusgoers ages 45 and older, with 56% support (and the Iowa turnout was considerably older than typical). But it was a much closer call among those younger than 45 years old, among whom 34% backed Trump, with projected second-place finisher Ron DeSantis at 29%.

Trump did far better among less-educated voters, winning 67% of those without a college degree vs. 37% among four-year college graduates.

Projected third-place finisher Nikki Haley won 63% of moderate voters vs. 20% for Trump, though moderates accounted for just 9% of the Iowa caucus electorate.

Trump saw his 54% support from Republicans slip to 42% of independents vs. 34% for Haley in that group, which was 16% of voters in Iowa on Monday.

That said, Trump's performance in the state was dramatically different than his narrow second-place finish in the last seriously contested GOP caucuses, won by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in 2016. Then Trump lagged among very conservative voters, evangelicals and those looking for a candidate who "shares my values." He saw no such impediments this year.

Instead, 46% of voters identified themselves as part of the "MAGA movement" that Trump started, with Trump winning 78% support in this group.

Sixty-six percent echoed Trump's false claim that Joe Biden did not legitimately win the presidency in 2020. Among those saying so, 69% supported Trump.

Thirty-two percent were focused chiefly on the candidate who "fights for people like me" -- the second-place attribute tested, but one Trump ran away with, with 82% support among those who picked it.

Campaign signs for Republican candidates Donald Trump and Nikki Haley appear outside Franklin Junior High in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 15, 2024.
Carolyn Kaster/AP
The stage for Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump is seen ahead of his caucus night watch party in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 15, 2024.
Brian Snyder/Reuters

All of the candidates' late slogging through the Iowa snow may not have mattered much: Eighty percent of caucusgoers in these results said they made up their minds either earlier this month (15%) or before that (65%).

In terms of turnout among groups, 89% said they were conservative, including 52% who were "very" conservative -- new highs.

White people accounted for 98% of caucusgoers and white evangelical Christians were 55%, a low (albeit just by 1 point vs. 2012).

Trump won 55% of conservative voters, 32 points better than in 2016. And he won even more "very" conservative voters, 51% -- 40 points better than his 2016 showing in that group.

While there were somewhat fewer of them in number than in past years, Trump won 53% of white evangelical Christians, which is 32 points better than his result among the group in 2016.

Of four issues tested as most important, two dominated -- the economy, the top issue, at 38%; and immigration, most important to 34%.

Foreign policy and abortion were far behind, at 12 and 11%, respectively.

Trump easily won voters who picked both top issues, peaking with 64% support among those focused on immigration. While there were far fewer of them, abortion voters favored DeSantis, the Florida governor, and Haley, a former U.N. ambassador, won 45% of foreign policy voters vs. 36% for Trump.

PHOTO: Deshawne Bird-Sell sets up signs for Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley outside the Mineola Community Center in Mineola, Iowa, Jan. 15, 2024.
Deshawne Bird-Sell sets up signs for Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley outside the Mineola Community Center on the day of the Republican presidential caucus, in Mineola, Iowa, Jan. 15, 2024.
Scott Morgan/Reuters

The top-cited candidate attribute was someone who "shares my values." Trump won 43% in this group, compared with a mere 5% among voters prioritizing values in 2016.

As noted, Trump won a vast 82% among those looking for a candidate who "fights for people like me."

Haley, in addition to romping among the small group of moderates, won 66% of caucusgoers looking for the candidate who "has the right temperament," although they too accounted for just 11% of voters. And, perhaps surprisingly, she was competitive with the former president, 33-40%, among voters who said they cared most about the candidate who can defeat Biden.

This was another small group, however -- 14% of Iowa caucus voters.

Indeed, whatever Trump's shortfalls, the challenge for DeSantis, Haley and the rest of his opponents is that winning the nomination necessarily means winning mainline Republicans and core GOP groups such as conservatives and evangelicals.

And there, in Iowa, the big win was Trump's.

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