Most Iowa GOP caucusgoers are ‘pro-life’ and ‘traditional’ conservatives

Iowa voters who are likely to participate in next year’s GOP presidential caucuses are self-described “traditional” conservatives and stridently opposed to abortion rights, according to new data from the latest NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom statewide poll.

A whopping 80% of likely Republican caucusgoers said they would use the phrase “pro-life” to describe themselves, the top attribute in the survey, which was conducted by Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer. Seven in 10 describe themselves as “traditional conservative.”

Nearly 80% of those surveyed also identify with the phrases “afraid for the Constitution” and “disgruntled with government.”

The survey offers a look at the voters who will likely be heading to the GOP caucuses in January to choose their presidential nominee. And it helps to explain how former President Donald Trump has such a sizable lead over his rivals for the GOP nomination — the largest shares of self-identified Republicans and evangelical Christians said Trump was their first choice for president.

The 42% who said Trump was their first choice roughly mirrored the 46% of likely caucusgoers who would use the phrase “MAGA Republican” to describe themselves. Only about a quarter of likely caucusgoers — 23% — described themselves as “anti-Trump,” the least popular of 13 different attributes the poll tested.

There is a gap between the high share of caucusgoers who described themselves as “pro-life” and those who voiced support in the survey for abortion restrictions. While 80% said they were “pro-life,” 54% said they would be more likely to support a candidate who calls for a 15-week abortion ban, and 58% said the state’s six-week ban “gets it about right.”

The survey did find a slight decline in caucusgoers who described themselves as “devoutly religious.” In 2016, 62% said they would use the phrase to describe themselves, while 55% said the same in the most recent survey.

More popular descriptors included “capitalist” (68%), “anti-woke” (67%) and “moderate” (57%).

The survey also offered a picture of these potential caucusgoers. A majority are older — 56% are over the age of 55. They mainly lean toward Republicans (68%), but a decent share described themselves as “totally independent” (25%).

These likely caucusgoers are largely white (93%), and a majority are men (61%). And 19% say they would be participating in their first caucus.

About 4 in 10 described themselves as evangelical Christians, a voting bloc that has been crucial in past caucuses.

In 2016, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas won 34% of evangelicals — the largest share of any GOP candidate, according to entrance polls — and he went on to win the Iowa caucuses, the latest in a string of Republican presidential hopefuls to ride to first place among evangelicals to overall caucus victory in the state.

The NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll was conducted Aug. 13-17 of 406 likely Republican caucusgoers, who said that they would definitely or probably attend the 2024 caucuses. It has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

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