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Republican President Donald Trump has taken over the lead in Iowa as Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden has faded, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows just days before Election Day.
The president now leads by 7 percentage points over Biden, 48% to 41%. Three percent say they will vote for someone else, 2% aren’t sure and 5% don’t want to say for whom they will vote.
In September’s Iowa Poll, the candidates were tied at 47% to 47%.
The poll of 814 likely Iowa voters was conducted by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines from Oct. 26-29. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., said while men are more likely to support Trump and women to support Biden, the gender gap has narrowed, and independents have returned to supporting the president, a group he won in 2016.
“The president is holding demographic groups that he won in Iowa four years ago, and that would give someone a certain level of comfort with their standing,” she said. “There’s a consistent story in 2020 to what happened in 2016.”
But, she said, “Neither candidate hits 50%, so there’s still some play here.”
Trump carried Iowa by 9.4 percentage points in 2016, but his chances at a repeat 2020 win here appeared to be in doubt in recent polling. The June Iowa Poll showed Trump leading by just 1 percentage point before Biden climbed into the September tie.
Biden, though, does not appear to have given up on the state. He was in Des Moines Friday for a drive-in rally where he told voters: “I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me as those who do. In my administration, there will be no red states or blue states, just the United States of America.”
Trump was in Iowa earlier this month and has scheduled another rally in Dubuque on Sunday.
But the universe of persuadable voters is rapidly diminishing. Ninety-four percent of likely voters say their minds are made up, including 98% of Biden’s supporters and 95% of Trump’s supporters. Just 4% of likely voters say they could still be persuaded, and 2% say they have no first choice for president.
In fact, many of their votes have already been cast. As early and mail-in voting surges because of the pandemic, 51% of likely voters say they have already voted, surpassing previous milestones.
Among those who have already voted, Biden leads 55% to 32%. And among those who have yet to vote, Trump leads 64% to 28%.
Trump wins back independents; Biden loses ground with women
Both candidates largely hold onto voters within their own parties. Ninety-three percent of Democrats support Biden, along with 4% of self-described Republicans. And 89% of Republicans support Trump, along with 2% of Democrats.
But Trump has regained an edge with those who identify as independents — a bloc key to his 2016 win in Iowa. According to National Election Pool exit polling published by CNN, independent voters favored Trump 51% to 38% over Democrat Hillary Clinton that year.
In the Register’s September Iowa Poll, Biden led with independents 50% to 38%. But today, Trump wins them back and leads 49% to 35%.
“I think that the key to what’s happening with President Trump is that he is leading with independents,” Selzer said. “That is a group that in Iowa in our September poll looked like it was swinging to Joe Biden, and it’s come back to be a Trump asset.”
In addition to fading with independents, Biden has lost ground with women. In September, he held a 20-point lead among women, which balanced out Trump’s 21-point lead among men. But today, Biden’s lead with women has shrunk to 9 percentage points, 50% to 41%.
“We saw a huge gender gap that benefited Biden in September,” Selzer said. “And while there is still a big gap among men — they’re going for Trump by a 24-point margin — it’s just a 9-point margin for Biden with women. And so there’s just an imbalance there. Before, we saw mirror images of each other.”
Biden is leading with two groups of voters that Trump carried in 2016: those with a college degree (50% to 40%) and women without a college degree (49% to 43%). Biden is also leading in the suburbs (47% to 43%).
But Trump has mostly maintained the support of demographic groups he carried in Iowa in 2016. Today, he leads with men 56% to 32%; with whites 48% to 43%; with those without a college degree 54% to 35%; and with white evangelicals 72% to 20%.
Economy is top of mind for many Trump voters
Trump’s supporters are most likely to say the economy and taxes are on their minds as they think about how to vote for president, with 37% naming it as their top issue. Just 7% of Biden supporters say the same.
Iowa has regained about 60% of the jobs it lost after the pandemic shut down businesses earlier this year. The state’s unemployment rate improved to 4.6% in September, the fifth-lowest in the country.
Among all likely voters supporting either Trump or Biden, 23% say they’re thinking most about a candidate’s proposals for the economy and taxes, 22% say a candidate’s “ability to restore what’s good about America;” 19% say a candidate’s “demonstrated leadership;” 9% say his approach to the pandemic; 7% say his vision for how to address future challenges; 4% say his approach to Supreme Court appointments; and 10% say something else. Five percent are not sure.
Also on Trump supporters’ minds: a candidate’s ability to restore what’s good about the country (19%), a candidate’s demonstrated leadership (18%), his approach to the Supreme Court (5%), his vision for the future (4%) and his approach to the pandemic (2%). Nine percent say something else, and 5% are unsure.
Sonja Bloomquist, a 77-year-old Fort Dodge resident and poll participant, identifies as a Republican and already has cast her vote for Trump. Bloomquist, who is a farmer, said Trump has been a big improvement over his predecessor.
“Our country, as far as I was concerned, was going in the wrong direction with (Barack) Obama,” she said. “You don’t go around bowing to other countries’ leaders and apologizing for our country like he did.”
Bloomquist said Trump is a strong leader who has regained respect around the world for the United States.
“He takes pride that this is America,” she said.
She said the president has done what he could to control the coronavirus pandemic. Critics are unfairly placing all the blame on him, she said.
“China’s at fault — no doubt about it,” she said.
The issue most on Biden supporters’ minds is a candidate’s “ability to restore what’s good about America” (26%). That’s followed by a candidate’s demonstrated leadership (20%), his approach to the pandemic (18%), his vision for the future (11%), his proposals for the economy and taxes (7%) and his approach to the Supreme Court (3%). Eleven percent say something else, and 5% are unsure.
Kay Leary, a 63-year-old Waterloo resident and poll respondent, is a Democrat who already has voted for Biden. The retired sixth-grade teacher believes Biden would bring a welcome change from Trump-induced turmoil.
“He’s civil,” Leary said of the former vice president. “He’s able to talk with people rather than talking to people.”
Leary said Biden listens to others and reads people well. She thinks he could engage productively with other foreign leaders.
She knows that others have questioned electing someone as old as Biden, who is 77. She doesn’t think his age is an issue now, “but if it becomes one, then I think Kamala Harris would be fine to fit right in,” she said, referring to the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee.
Contributing: Tony Leys