U.S Election

Iowa Poll shows Nikki Haley leads Ron DeSantis in Iowa Caucuses. Donald Trump far ahead

Author: Brianne Pfannenstiel, USA TODAY NETWORK Source: USA Today
January 14, 2024 at 07:46

Although Nikki Haley has pulled ahead of Ron DeSantis, the Iowa Poll shows clear dangers lurk for her going into a caucus night that could be decided by Iowans’ willingness to brave the bitter cold

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Nikki Haley has overtaken Ron DeSantis in Iowa just days before a high-stakes Republican caucus that could help determine whether either candidate has a viable shot at upending Donald Trump, the race’s far-and-away front-runner.

But even as Haley has moved into second place, a new Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll indicates her support may be based on “shaky ground,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who conducted the poll.  

The Iowa Poll shows 48% of likely Republican caucusgoers pick Trump as their first choice for president — a slight dip from the 51% who said the same in December.  

Haley, who has shown more upward momentum since the start of the caucus cycle than any other candidate, now sits in second place at 20%. It is her best showing in the Iowa Poll, and an increase of 4 percentage points since December.  

DeSantis has fallen 3 percentage points to slip to third place at 16%. 


Although DeSantis entered the race last year looking like the candidate best positioned to take on Trump in Iowa, the Florida governor has stagnated in the polls, failing to gain any ground over his first Iowa Poll showing in August, when he earned 19%. 

Selzer, who is president of the nationally recognized firm Selzer & Co., said Saturday’s results bring to mind those of the final Iowa Poll before the 2016 Republican caucus

That year, Trump stood atop the poll, but Cruz looked far stronger in the underlying data. Cruz went on to defeat Trump, but Trump defeated him for the Republican nomination.  

“The deep data on (Haley) suggest she looks stronger in the poll than she could on caucus night,” Selzer said. 

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley greets a young supporter during a meet and greet afer her event Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, at The James Theater in Iowa City.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley greets a young supporter during a meet and greet afer her event Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, at The James Theater in Iowa City. Cody Scanlan/The Register

The poll shows troubling signs around likely caucusgoers’ enthusiasm for Haley, which could become particularly important as Iowa faces what is expected to be a historically cold caucus night following a blizzard that dumped a foot of snow across much of the state. 

While Haley has surpassed DeSantis, Selzer said, “most of the rest of the data here is not good news.” 

No other candidate breaks into double digits.  

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy is in fourth place at 8%, up from 5% in December.  

Texas pastor Ryan Binkley and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson are at 1%. 

The poll of 705 likely Republican caucusgoers was conducted Jan. 7-12 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.  

It comes as Iowans are solidifying their caucus picks. Overall, 68% say their minds are made up, while 25% say they could still be persuaded. Another 7% say they do not have a first-choice candidate. 

More Trump supporters are locked in, with 82% saying their minds are made up. It’s 64% for DeSantis supporters and 63% for Haley supporters.  



This cycle has seen most Iowa Republican caucusgoers decide on a candidate and stick with their choice even as the field has shifted and narrowed. 

Two in three, or 65%, say they have always supported their current first-choice candidate, while 27% say they’ve previously supported someone else.  

Among Trump supporters, 87% say they have always supported him. For DeSantis, it’s 67%. But it’s just 46% among Haley supporters. 

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