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Iowa poll: Tough border measures, fighting a 'woke' agenda are the most popular GOP issues ahead of debate

Of seven issues tested, the least popular one is aggressively criticizing Trump over his legal challenges.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Eagle Pass, Texas, on June 26, 2023.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Eagle Pass, Texas, on June 26.Sergio Flores for The Washington Post via Getty Images file

A whopping 77% of likely Republican Iowa caucusgoers say they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who supports using the U.S. military to secure the southern border, while an additional 65% say are more likely to back a candidate who fights the “left’s woke agenda.”  

By contrast, more than half of likely GOP caucusgoers in Iowa — 54% — say they’re less likely to vote for candidates who “aggressively criticize” former President Donald Trump over the multiple criminal charges he’s facing.

That’s according to newly released numbers from the latest NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of Iowa that measured seven different issues among the GOP electorate in Iowa ahead of Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate.

Just 16% of those polled say they would be more likely to support a candidate who criticizes Trump in the way described, while an additional 29% say it would not matter to them whether a candidate aggressively criticizes Trump or not.

Another unpopular position among likely GOP caucusgoers is “continuing U.S. military aid to Ukraine,” with 43% of those polled saying this position would make them less likely to support a candidate, versus 35% who would be more likely to support such a candidate. 

On abortion, 54% of those surveyed say they would more likely support a candidate who wants to ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks, with exceptions. Twenty-four percent of those polled say they would be less likely to support a candidate who backs a 15-week nationwide abortion ban.

Last month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, signed into law a bill prohibiting women from seeking abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies. Currently, the law is on hold pending litigation about its constitutionality. 

Almost 60% of those polled say that the blocked measure “gets it about right” when it comes to states regulating abortion access. Thirty percent of those surveyed say that the state now has “too many restrictions” regarding abortion and 9% say the state still has “too few restrictions” on the issue.

The NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll was conducted Aug. 13-17 among 406 likely Republican caucusgoers who said they will definitely or probably attend the 2024 caucuses. It has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.