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CNN Iowa Poll: Abortion, climate change, guns top list of must-have issues for likely caucusgoers

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Former VP Joe Biden leads the majorities of likely Iowa Democratic caucus participants who say they favor a woman's right to abortion and recognize climate change as humanity's greatest threat, according to a new CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll.

Posted: Jun 10, 2019 9:00 AM
Updated: Jun 10, 2019 10:00 AM


Majorities of likely Iowa Democratic caucus participants say any candidate who hopes to win their support must favor a woman's right to abortion, recognize climate change as humanity's greatest threat, and support restoration of a ban on assault-style weapons, according to a new CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll.

Other issues, including recent campaign touchstones such as support for Medicare for All, free tuition for public four-year colleges and restoration of felon voting rights are must-haves for less than half of caucusgoers, regardless of whether they plan to participate virtually or in person.

RELATED: Poll results | 2020 Election coverage

The survey finds almost no significant differences between people who are likely to participate in person and those who will participate virtually when it comes to issue priorities.

Support for abortion rights is tops, with about 8 in 10 calling it a must have regardless of how they plan to participate. Recognition of climate change as the greatest threat to humanity stands narrowly behind, a must-have for about three-quarters. Fewer (about 6 in 10) say it's a must have to support restoring the ban on assault-style weapons.

Among in-person caucusgoers, liberals are more apt to call nearly all of the nine issues tested 'must-haves' than are moderates, but the gap is largest on Medicare for All (60% of liberals call it a must-have vs. 39% of moderates) and abortion rights (90% vs. 70%). There is also a wide gap by age on Medicare for All, with those under age 35 about 20 points more likely to prioritize it than their elders.

Younger caucusgoers were also more likely to see student debt forgiveness as a must-have (61% among those under age 35 vs. roughly a third of older likely caucus attendees), and while there aren't sharp differences by age on the importance of recognizing climate change as humanity's greatest threat, there is a wide gap on support for the Green New Deal (42% among those under age 35 consider it a must-have vs. less than 30% among older likely caucus attendees).

Although support for abortion rights tops the list, it also prompts a gender divide in the poll. It is more of a 'must-have' issue for women (85%) than for men (72%).

The survey also looked at whether certain traits which divide the historically large field would be advantages or disadvantages for a general election run against President Donald Trump. Just one was named an advantage by majorities of both in-person and virtual likely caucus participants: Having years of experience in Washington.

Three of the top four candidates in the race are age 69 or older, yet almost no likely caucus participants say that many years of experience on Earth is an advantage (1% among likely in-person attendees call being over age 70 an advantage against Trump, 3% among virtual). Those who back former Vice President Joe Biden (age 76) are more apt to say it doesn't make a difference than are other likely caucusgoers.

Likely caucus participants are divided on whether being a woman helps or hurts against Trump. Among those likely to participate in-person, 23% call it an advantage, 19% a disadvantage and 54% say it makes no difference. But among those likely to participate virtually, a larger 28% see being a woman as a disadvantage and 23% call it an advantage.

Likely caucus participants tilt positive on the effects of coming from a place that mostly votes for Democrats and on being white.

Three-in-five likely in-person Democratic Iowan caucusgoers say that being gay makes no difference in a candidate's ability to face Trump in the general election, while a quarter see it as a disadvantage. Among likely virtual attendees, 12% say it's an advantage, that compares with just 4% among likely in-person attendees.

The CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll was conducted by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, from June 2 through 5 among a random sample of 600 likely Democratic caucus participants reached on landlines or cell phones by a live interviewer. The sample included 433 who said they plan to attend the caucuses in-person and 167 who said they plan to attend virtually. Results for the combined sample of likely caucusgoers have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points; it is 4.7 points for those planning to attend in-person, 7.6 points for those who plan to attend virtually.

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