Schisms Carve the Iowa Contests, Leaving a Murky Political Calculus (POLL)

Schisms galore marked the Iowa caucuses

ByABC News
February 2, 2016, 12:31 AM

— -- Schisms galore marked the Iowa caucuses, with enough divisions in the Republican and Democratic parties to make the contests look like a political calculus class.

In the Republican race, three competing groups emerged: Voters focused on values, who gave the prize to Ted Cruz and the razz to Donald Trump; those centered on a political outsider, who were all about Trump; and electability voters, who turned instead to Marco Rubio.

Then there was the Democratic side, with equally severe splits – Hillary Clinton whomping among voters focused on experience and electability; Bernie Sanders cleaning up among those who cared most about honesty and trustworthiness or a candidate who “cares about people like me.” A virtual tie ensued.

The results of the Iowa entrance polls, analyzed for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, leave open questions for both sides on how soon – and how well – these rifts may heal. Each of these top five finishers showed strengths; each also showed substantial vulnerabilities, clouding the view as the campaigns troop on to New Hampshire and beyond.

The Republican Race

In the GOP contest, Cruz’s narrow victory seems best defined by four factors: Big turnout by evangelicals (a group customarily in short supply in New Hampshire), broad backing from strong conservatives, strength among values voters and a solid ground game. Consider:

• Evangelicals accounted for 64 percent of GOP caucus-goers in Iowa, up by 7 percentage points from 2012 to a new high in entrance polls dating back to 1988. Cruz won a third of them, vs. 22 percent for Trump and 21 percent for Rubio.

• Those calling themselves “very” conservative accounted for 40 percent of participants. While that was down 7 points from 2012, Cruz cruised in this group, with 44 percent support vs. 21 percent for Trump and 15 percent for Rubio.

• Forty-two percent of GOP caucus-goers said they were chiefly interested in a candidate who “shares my values,” the top attribute by far. Cruz won 38 percent in this group, vs. 21 percent for Rubio, 15 percent for Ben Carson… and a piddling 5 percent for Trump.

• On the ground game, 41 percent of Cruz’s voters said they’d been personally contacted about coming out to support their candidate. That compares to 35 percent among Trump supporters and 32 percent among those who backed Rubio.

Trump’s weakness among voters focused on values could be a real challenge for him in future contests. That said, his outsider status remains his ace in the hole – nearly half of GOP caucus-goers said they were looking for a political outsider, and Trump won 46 percent of them, an impressive tally in an 11-candidate contest. Further, 45 percent said it was the first time they’d attended a Republican caucus in Iowa – up 7 points from 2012 – and Trump won 30 percent of then, ahead of Cruz and Rubio by 7 and 8 points, respectively.

Still, while Trump did especially well with early deciders (39 percent support from those who picked their candidate more than a month ago), those who decided more recently split between Cruz and Rubio, with Trump third – raising the question of whether he can light a fire with late deciders elsewhere. If so, he’ll do it as the candidate who “can bring needed change” and “tells it like it is”; his support on the former was significant; on the latter, well, yuge. (Immigration, his signature issue, was selected as the top concern by only 13 percent in Iowa.)