PPP: Perry rides tea party, anti-science wave to front of pack in Iowa

Gov. Rick Perry (Flickr Creative Commons/Robert Scoble)
As if to prove Colorado College political science professor Bob Loevy is correct when he says the current presidential nominating process gives too much power to fringe groups in small states, Rick Perry is riding a strong anti-science sentiment to the lead in Iowa polling. He also leads Republican contenders in Colorado.

Less than two weeks after U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann claimed gold in the Ames Straw Poll, there appears to be movement in the Republican field in the Hawkeye State.

Public Policy Polling reported Tuesday that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the new favorite among Iowa Republicans.

Perry claimed 22 percent in their latest poll which places him above second-place finisher former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has 19 percent, and close third-place getter Bachmann, who has 18 percent. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who finished second in Ames, garnered 16 percent support.

Holding the bottom of the pack are Atlanta businessman Herman Cain, with 7 percent, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum with 5 percent, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, with 3 percent.

If GOP wildcard Sarah Palin is included in the results, there is only a slight shift in percentage points, but not placement, for the front-runners as Palin grabs 10 percent of the oxygen.

According to PPP, Perry’s Iowa support has been built on tea party voters and those with “very conservative positions on certain issues.”

Only 33 percent of Republican voters in Iowa identify themselves as members of the tea party, but a broad advantage with them is driving Perry’s lead. He gets 32 percent to 22 percent for Bachman, and 19 percent for Paul. Romney is way back in sixth place with those voters at only 6 percent. Romney doesn’t need to win tea party voters to win in Iowa, but he needs to do a whole lot better than that.

With the majority of Republicans who don’t consider themselves tea partiers, Romney actually leads Perry and Bachmann with 30 percent to their 16 percent, but it’s not enough to make up for his poor performance with the far right faction of the party.

Perry’s drawn some attention in the last week for his statements about global warming and evolution and although he’s drawn ridicule from Democrats and Republican elites… our poll suggests he perfectly in line with the GOP base. Only 35 percent of Iowa Republicans believe in evolution to 48 percent who don’t. With the ones who do believe in it Perry’s in fourth place at 12 percent, putting him behind Romney’s 24 percent, Paul’s 18 percent and Bachmann’s 15 percent. But with the evolution deniers, Perry is the overwhelming favorite at 32 percent to Bachmann’s 19 percent, Romney’s 15 percent and Paul’s 13 percent.

The situation, says PPP, is similar with global warming, which only 21 percent of Iowa GOP members believe is factual — 66 percent of Iowa Republicans do not believe in it.

There even continues to be a pretty strong birther strain in Iowa. Forty-eight percent of Republican voters believe Barack Obama was born in the United States but 32 percent still do not. With the ones who think Obama was born in the country, Romney edges Perry 25-22. That’s more than overcome by Perry’s 22-10 lead with the GOP voters who don’t think the President is a legitimate US citizen.

Can you believe in global warming and evolution and still win the Republican Presidential nomination? I’m not sure you can given these numbers.

In conclusion, the pollster notes that the figures show no bounce for Bachmann as a result of Ames. “She was in third place when we polled Iowa in June, and she’s in third place now.”

That being said, PPP does see momentum for Paul, who is up 11 percent since June polling, and Santorum, “who’s seen healthy improvement in his favorability numbers.”

Here’s the net favorability of everyone PPP polled in Iowa ranked from most popular to least popular, compared with where they were on the June poll:

Candidate Favorability (Net) Change from June Poll
Rick Perry 56/24 (+32) +27 (was +5 at 21/16)
Ron Paul 53/29 (+24) +11 (was +13 at 42/29)
Rick Santorum 44/22 (+22) +11 (was +11 at 29/18)
Chris Christie 43/21 (+22) -8 (was +30 at 42/12)
Paul Ryan 38/21 (+17) -11 (was +28 at 42/14)
Sarah Palin 52/36 (+16) -12 (was +28 at 59/31)
Michele Bachmann 47/35 (+12) -25 (was +37 at 53/16)
Rudy Giuliani 43/34 (+9) -9 (was +18 at 49/31)
Herman Cain 42/35 (+7) -7 (was +14 at 38/24)
Mitt Romney 45/38 (+7) -10 (was +17 at 51/34)
Newt Gingrich 42/44 (-2) None (was -2 at 39/41)
Fred Karger 3/25 (-22) -7 (was -15 at 2/17)
Gary Johnson 5/31 (-26) -12 (was -14 at 4/18)
Jon Huntsman 13/40 (-27) -11 (was -16 at 7/23)
Buddy Roemer 1/34 (-33) -16 (was -17 at 4/21)

Scot Kersgaard contributed to this story.

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