Des Moines, Iowa — Forty-eight hours before the Iowa caucuses, the final Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll finds Donald Trump holding onto his first place spot, with Ted Cruz taking second, and Marco Rubio in a distant third.
The poll, widely respected as the most accurate in the state, has Trump leading with 28 percent support, followed by Cruz with 23 percent. Rubio, despite rumblings of a surge here, sits in third with 15 percent.
The numbers are strong for Trump. He is “getting most of what we would call mainstream Republican support,” pollster Ann Selzer told reporters at an event unveiling the results, which is “really against the grain of the Iowa caucuses.” He also does “extraordinarily well” with moderate voters.
Higher turnout among evangelicals would benefit Cruz. 47 percent of likely GOP caucus-goers identified themselves as evangelicals in the poll. That’s lower than the 57 percent of Republican caucus-goers who identified as evangelicals in 2012 entrance polls.
Still, Trump maintains a narrow lead even in a scenario where evangelicals turn out at a higher rate, taking 26 percent to Cruz’s 25 percent. And despite several recent missteps with evangelicals — which Cruz’s campaign has taken pains to highlight — Trump holds a one percentage point lead in the Western Iowa district represented by Cruz surrogate Steve King, arguably the most conservative district in the state and home to a huge number of evangelicals.
There has been much talk about a surge for Rubio in the final days of the race, something that does not show up in the poll numbers. But Rubio gets the most second choice votes, and the race remains fluid: 45 percent of voters say they could change their mind between now and when they caucus on Monday, though large majorities of Trump supporters (71 percent) and Cruz supporters (61 percent) say their choice is set in stone. Just 9 percent of respondents remain undecided.
The debate here Thursday appears to have had little impact on the results, and the other Republicans in the field are so far behind as to appear a non-factor: Ben Carson sits in fourth at 10 percent. Rand Paul is at 5 percent, and Chris Christie takes 3 percent. Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and John Kasich are all tied at 2 percent.
The poll results are based on responses from 602 likely Republican caucus-goers surveyed between January 26 and January 29. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.