A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds the Iowa Republican race taking shape, but the outcome of the race may ultimately be decided by the nearly six in 10 likely caucus goers who have yet to be sold on a candidate. While their votes are still up for grabs, the poll shows they already have a sense for what they like and dislike in the top contenders.
As with our earlier post slicing up the Republican vote, we’ll broaden our focus from likely caucus-goers to the broader population of “potential” voters, which allows for a deeper look at uncommitted groups in the electorate.
Mitt Romney benefits greatly from his years in the private sector. Almost six in 10 potential caucus goers who are currently undecided or could change their mind in the poll say Romney’s business credentials are a major reason to support him. A similar number says the same about Newt Gingrich’s political experience. Even after coming under fire from competitors in a recent debate, twice as many see Gingrich’s illegal immigration position as a reason to support rather than oppose him (34 percent vs. 16 percent). And on-the-fence caucus goers see Ron Paul’s views on limited government as a plus by a more than 3 to 1 margin.
Among their challenges — three in 10 less committed voters are turned off by Romney’s Massachusetts health-care policies and even more say Paul’s opposition to military intervention overseas is a count against him, both higher than the number who see these as positive attributes.
Nearly three quarters of uncommitted caucus goers say Romney’s religious beliefs are not a major factor in their vote. Indeed, the importance of religion seems to be much more subdued than in 2008, when two in three caucus participants said a candidate’s religious beliefs mattered a great deal (36 percent) or somewhat (31 percent), according to entrance polls. Baptist Minister Mike Huckabee won the contest.