(Bloomberg Politics) — Likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers are clear: They want a president who will repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and crack down on terrorists here and abroad, and any presidential hopeful who wants to build GOP support in this early nominating state will likely have to toe the conservative line on social issues, a new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows.
Democrats likely to participate in the caucuses want something entirely different: A president focused on jobs, climate change, and income inequality, another reminder of the wide gulf between the two parties going into the 2016 election cycle.
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More than 90 percent of likely Iowa Republican caucus participants said they favored pursuing terrorists more aggressively, while 80 percent were in favor of repealing PPACA. Asked which one or two issues were most important to them, the same two issues stood out: 45 percent wanted to repeal PPACA, while 43 percent wanted more aggressive pursuit of terrorists.
The GOP poll results, compiled from interviews with 402 likely Iowa Republican caucus participants Jan. 26-29, suggest some reasons why former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have struggled so far while more conservative figures such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee have greater support.
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“We need a conservative approach; we have got to turn this whole country around,” said Dennis Ard, 70, a retired teacher from Sioux City who favors Walker. “I’m looking for a real American, as American as I can find, as patriotic as I can find, with those values that I’ve grown up understanding. I’m looking for a pro-life person that I guess would be maybe very conservative; to me, it’s normal. Other than that, jobs are the most important thing in this country.”
Ard said he thinks Bush’s rivals have twisted his stance on immigration to make him sound more liberal than he is. He said he thinks Bush cares about education, but he added he is concerned about “too much federal control in education.”
“I really, really like Jeb Bush and would push him first, but you know what I’m afraid of? They will think, ‘Oh, another Bush,’ and the politics that went along with his brother,” Ard said. “I’m just afraid that it would be a close race but I don’t think Bush could pull it off.”
Likely Republican caucus participants are galvanized around several hot-button issues. Along with their firm stance in favor of repealing PPACA, 70 percent oppose legalizing marijuana. Two-thirds oppose making gay marriage legal nationwide.
The findings offer some mixed signals about immigration reform, potentially a trouble spot for Bush because some within his party consider him to be soft on the issue. While 65 percent of the Republican sample opposes creating a path to permanent residency for people living illegally in the U.S., only 9 percent identified it as the most important issue for the next president to address, down from 11 percent in an October poll, and just 12 percent said it was among the top two issues of importance to them personally, placing it behind building the Keystone XL pipeline on their priority list.
In another potential drag on Bush in Iowa, 61 percent said they oppose implementing the Common Core education standards, which the former governor has supported.
Yet the survey suggests that likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers don’t see most of those litmus tests as deal-breakers. Asked to identify the most important issues for the next president to address, survey respondents led with terrorism, at 25 percent, up from 16 percent in the October poll, likely as a result of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France. The federal deficit was next, at 21 percent. Only 8 percent identified health care and 7 percent social issues as most important.