In a hypothetical 2024 match, Donald Trump leads Joe Biden by double digits in Iowa Poll

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DES MOINES, Iowa – In a hypothetical 2024 rematch, former President Donald Trump leads President Joe Biden in Iowa by 11 percentage points, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows. 

In 2020, Trump defeated Biden by about 8 percentage points, carrying the state 53% to 45%.

In the new survey, 51% of likely Iowa voters in the 2024 election would vote for Trump, a Republican, and 40% say they would vote for Biden, a Democrat. Another 4% say they would not vote for either candidate, and 5% say they are not sure.

The poll comes as Biden’s approval rating among Iowans sits near its lowest since he took office in January. Meanwhile, Iowans view Trump more favorably than they did while he was in office, according to a September Iowa Poll. 

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Trump’s 2024 lead among likely Iowa voters appears to be driven by support among independents.

Biden wins support among 95% of Democrats – slightly better than the 91% Trump earns among Republicans. But independents favor Trump by 8 percentage points, 45% to 37%.

“Trump won Iowa convincingly in 2020, and that’s reflected in these data,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co.

Selzer & Co. conducted the poll of 810 Iowa adults, including 658 likely voters, Nov. 7 to 10. The questions of all Iowans have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points, and questions asked of likely voters have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

But Selzer cautioned that the poll shows an opening for Republican caucus challengers.

“If all you had in this poll was that Trump would defeat Joe Biden by 11 points, it might say everything is locked up,” she said.

But the poll found that among Iowans who identify as Republicans, 61% say they are more aligned with the party compared with 26% who say they are more aligned with Trump. The margin of error for that question is plus or minus 6 percentage points.

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That preference for the party over Trump is shared by a majority of every demographic group among Republicans, including those in rural areas and evangelical Iowans – two of Trump’s strongholds.

“It opens the door a bit for Iowa,” Selzer said.

A parade of potential Republican presidential contenders already has made its way through the state during the past year, more than two years ahead of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Republican caucuses.

“If I had a choice between Gov. (Ron) DeSantis or Donald Trump, that right there would be a hard decision for me,” said Franklin Troy Hommer, a poll respondent from Marion County and political independent. “But if you’re telling me that my two choices are Joe Biden or Donald Trump, I’m picking Donald Trump.”

Trump leads with rural, evangelical Iowans 

Neither Trump nor Biden has made a formal reelection announcement, though both have left the option open.

Trump, 75, visited Des Moines in October, holding a rally that drew thousands to the Iowa State Fairgrounds amid speculation he was laying groundwork for another White House run.  

Biden, 78, is just ending the first year of his first term. At a news conference in March, Biden said he planned to run for reelection but also said he was a “great respecter of fate” and has never planned anything for certain. He has not returned to the state since campaigning there ahead of the 2020 election.

In the hypothetical matchup, Trump leads with huge margins among evangelical and rural Iowans. He carries evangelical likely voters 76% to 15%, and he carries rural likely voters 64% to 26%.

Justin Lindsey, 36, a poll respondent from Sioux City, said he’d vote for Trump in a hypothetical rematch with Biden. He said Trump put in place policies that worked.

“The reason is: He is more of a businessman than a politician,” said Lindsey, a carpenter and a registered Republican. “When he got into office, he actually ran the country like a business, and he’s had great success with businesses.”

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Trump also does well among likely voters without a college degree, earning support among 59% compared with Biden’s 31%.

Biden does better with those who have earned a college degree, 53% to Trump’s 38%.

Biden also does well among likely voters 65 and older – 52% to 41% – and those with no religious affiliation – 56% to 36%.

Elizabeth McRae, 22, a respondent from Cedar Falls, said she believes “four more years of Trump would destroy the country.”

McRae, a University of Northern Iowa student and a Democrat, said she approves of the job Biden is doing as president.

“I feel like he is really holding the country steady at a point in time where we’re going to look back and think, ‘How the hell did anybody do that?’” she said.

But she wishes Biden and the Democratic majorities in Congress would go beyond the status quo. 

“I think it’s a little bit of a shame that we’re not pushing a little bit more of progressive policies while we have the power,” she said.

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Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted since taking office. Iowans disapprove of the job he’s doing as president by about a 2-to-1 margin.

Biden’s job approval has not been in net positive territory in Iowa since March. Then, 47% of Iowans approved of his performance and 44% disapproved.

Today, one-third of all Iowa adults, 33%, say they approve of the job Biden is doing, up 2 percentage points from the Register’s last Iowa Poll,  in September; 62% disapprove; and 6% are not sure.

“This is not a good approval rating by any definition,” Selzer said.

Biden is rated poorly for his handling of a range of issues. Fewer than one-third of all Iowans approve of his handling of immigration, criminal justice, the economy and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

On those specific issues: 

  • Twenty-four percent of Iowans approve of the way Biden is handling immigration. Another 66% disapprove and 10% are not sure. Among Democrats, a minority approve, 47%.
  • On criminal justice, 28% of Iowans approve, 53% disapprove and 19% are not sure. Among Democrats, 60% approve.
  • Iowans continue to rate Biden poorly on his handling of Afghanistan after overseeing the U.S. military’s withdrawal from the country, relinquishing control to the Taliban. Today, 22% approve, 68% disapprove and 9% are not sure – his worst metric among issues tested. Among Democrats, a minority approve, 49%.
  • Thirty-two percent of Iowans approve of Biden’s handling of the economy and 61% disapprove. Another 7% are unsure. But Democrats give him a 77% approval rating on the economy.

Hommer, a truck driver, said he’s spending significantly more to fuel up when he goes to the pump. He blames Biden for rising fuel prices after the president halted construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and tried, unsuccessfully, to pause new oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

“Everything’s gone up, so I almost can’t afford to live,” he said.

The one policy area where Biden’s approval has improved slightly is his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, 41% of Iowans say they approve, while 57% say they disapprove. In September, 36% approved and 60% disapproved. 

Kathy Seward, 66, a  Democratic poll respondent from West Des Moines, said she likes that Biden is “taking a stand” on COVID-19 and said his actions show he has backbone.

“I like that he was trying to get all the employers to require vaccinations or testing,” said Seward, a retired clerical worker. “Again, it’s the only way we’re going to get this under control.”

Iowans broadly feel the nation is headed in the wrong direction. More than two-thirds, 69%, say things in the nation are on the wrong track. Twenty-three percent say things are headed in the right direction, a rise of 2 percentage points from September.

About this poll  

The Iowa Poll, conducted Nov. 7-10, 2021, for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 810 Iowans ages 18 and older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cellphone numbers supplied by Dynata. Interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted by age, sex, and congressional district to reflect the general population based on recent American Community Survey estimates.   

Questions based on the sample of 810 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. Questions based on the subsample of 658 likely voters in the 2024 presidential election have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.4 percentage points or 3.8 percentage points, respectively. Results based on smaller samples of respondents – such as by gender or age – have a larger margin of error.