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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

CBS News poll: Haley gains on Trump in New Hampshire while he continues to dominate in Iowa

Donald Trump still leads in New Hampshire, but Nikki Haley has consolidated much of the non-Trump vote and has emerged as the top alternative to him there. Among the top candidates, Haley gets the best marks on being seen as “likable” and “reasonable,” and she runs nearly even with Trump on being “prepared” — notable, considering he held the presidency. She has been running in part on electability and is now seen as the most electable of Trump’s challengers.

Meanwhile, Trump has consolidated his already commanding lead in Iowa, where likely caucus-goers overwhelmingly see him as a “strong leader,” where his backers say he “represents Iowa values,” and where he is boosted by an electorate in which nearly half say they are part of the MAGA movement.

These descriptors help show the differences in what Trump voters — and non-Trump voters — are looking for in a candidate, however.

Despite leading by double digits, Trump isn’t seen as the most likable or even reasonable candidate in New Hampshire. He does dominate on being seen as a “strong leader” by primary voters, and on the view that he would beat Joe Biden.

How New Hampshire’s more moderate electorate helps Haley

Haley has been given a boost by New Hampshire’s more moderate electorate relative to Iowa. She has made inroads among self-described moderates and independents, running close to Trump among them now. (Independents can, and often do, vote in the GOP primary.) And it’s these groups who express more openness, in principle, to a candidate dissimilar to Trump, if he isn’t the nominee.

Asked to compare the candidates to the frontrunner, voters see Haley as the most different candidate from Trump in terms of personality. And about seven in 10 say that if the nominee is not Trump, they would prefer a candidate different than him in terms of personality.

When voters are asked which candidates they are at least considering, Haley and Chris Christie get some overlap — most of those considering Christie are also considering Haley. But Christie suffers from more negative evaluations, with few describing him as likable, prepared, or reasonable. And most see him as a long shot to beat Biden.

Key cultural issues

New Hampshire may have more self-described moderates, but the Republican electorate is strongly in favor of some socially conservative themes being discussed on the campaign trail, notably bans on medical procedures to change a child’s gender and on discussions of gender identity in schools. Both ideas find even greater resonance among the more conservative electorate in Iowa.

There is a stark difference between these two states on abortion. A large majority of Iowa’s GOP caucus-goers feel abortion should be illegal in their state. That sets them apart from New Hampshire primary voters, who mostly want abortion to be legal in their state. (And Haley leads among primary voters there who would like to see the GOP nominee oppose a national abortion ban.)

Meanwhile the idea of mass deportations also finds a lot of favor, with both New Hampshire and Iowa voters, and with Trump voters in particular.

Iowa: Trump still leads big

The race has taken a different trajectory in Iowa. Trump not only continues to lead big, but his lead has widened since September. He isn’t just winning; he is the only candidate even being actively considered by a majority of likely caucus-goers. And the share considering only Trump and no one else has grown.

More Iowa Republican caucus-goers consider themselves “MAGA” than Republican primary voters in New Hampshire. And Trump’s backers overwhelmingly feel he represents Iowa values.

Moreover, nearly all Iowa Republican voters considering Trump say things were better when he was president.

Trump’s backers are also the most firm in their choice. Most describe their support as “very strong — I’ve decided.”

Ron DeSantis has not gained much traction in Iowa since September. While he is spending a lot of time in the state, he does no better among caucus-goers who prioritize candidates meeting voters face to face than those who do not. He is viewed as most similar to Trump on policy, in a state that wants a nominee similar to Trump if it can’t be Trump, but the former president himself continues to dominate the field.

We estimate that Trump’s current support would translate to winning a majority of delegates in Iowa (21-26 of them), and 10-16 delegates in New Hampshire. Haley’s support in New Hampshire would get her 5-8 delegates, with DeSantis and Christie’s support hovering around the state’s 10% threshold to qualify for any delegates at all.


These CBS News/YouGov surveys were conducted between December 8-15, 2023. They are based on representative samples of 1,054 registered voters in Iowa and 855 in New Hampshire. The samples were weighted according to gender, age, race, education, and geographic region based on the U.S. Census Current Population Survey, as well as past vote. Results here are reported among likely Republican caucus/primary voters, and have a margin of error of ±6.1 points in Iowa (n=478) and ±5.5 points in New Hampshire (n=459).

Iowa toplines

New Hampshire toplines

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