There's a reason Democratic presidential front-runners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders continually bash the financial industry: “Anti-Wall Street” and “socialist” are each chosen by more than 40 percent of those planning to attend their party's Iowa caucuses as words or phrases that describe them well.
Just 16 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers say “anti-Wall Street” applies to their view of themselves (and only 4 percent “socialist”), the latest Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows.
As candidates crisscross the state that hosts the first presidential nomination voting on Feb. 1, the poll asked likely caucus-goers to assess a list of descriptions to determine those that best fit them.
Iowa's caucuses are often criticized for attracting activists with the most extreme views from both parties, and there's data in the poll to back that up. Among likely caucus-goers, just 22 percent of Republicans and 32 of Democrats say “centrist” is a word they would use to describe themselves.
Iowans who support Sanders and plan to attend the caucuses are more likely to view themselves as anti-Wall Street than Clinton's backers, 60 percent to 31 percent.
“I just feel that they are central to the multi-billionaires, who I feel are a threat to the democracy of this country,” said Charles West, 89, a retired clergyman from Algona, Iowa.
“Regardless of how much they may object, I feel they definitely influence our legislators,” said West, who is backing Sanders. “Their lobbyists write the laws that the government passes, they write how it will be applied and all of the exceptions that make such advantages for those who have money and make it difficult for those who are trying to earn a living.”
Ellen Bridenstine, 54, a Democrat and library assistant from Des Moines, said she views big banks as “sort of elusive” and “a little scary” to those who don't work in the industry.
“Part of it is, of course, the recession in 2008, the whole idea of big banks too big to fail,” said Bridenstine, who is backing former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. “It makes me uncomfortable with so much power in such few entities.”
More than half—58 percent—of those backing Sanders say that word “socialist” resonates with them, compared to about a third for Clinton supporters. Sanders represents Vermont as an independent senator caucusing with Democrats, and he describes himself as a democratic socialist.
“I never really thought of it as socialism before, but I’ve educated myself on the issue and I guess if I’m a socialist, I’m a socialist,” said Sarah Kane, 38, nurse practitioner and Sanders supporter from Waterloo, Iowa. “I believe in those things.”
Kane said she thinks Clinton is too cozy with Wall Street and big-money political action committees. “Don’t get me wrong—push comes to shove, if she gets the nomination, I’m going to vote for her, without a doubt,” she said. “But I think the problem is that she’s a traditional politician.”
Among the four Republican candidates scoring highest in the Iowa Poll, those supporting Senator Marco Rubio of Florida are the most likely to identify with the centrist label, at 31 percent. That's followed by 20 percent among those backing billionaire Donald Trump. Supporters of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson are both at 15 percent.
More than four in five Iowans likely to attend the Republican caucuses view themselves as a “values voter,” while “capitalist” and “devoutly religious” were each picked by 62 percent.
Republican Brad Anderson, 65, a retired peace officer from Radcliffe, Iowa, is one of those who views himself as a values voter. He's backing Cruz, who is ahead of Trump by 3 percentage points in the horse-race section of the Iowa Poll.
“I am a Christian, and although I know that our society is completely out of whack, and that the ideal candidate for me is maybe not electable, I am still looking for a man that believes that our country was founded upon Biblical truths. He will be the first one to get my vote,” Anderson said.
Among supporters of the top four Republican candidates, those backing Carson and Cruz, at 73 percent and 72 percent, respectively, are most likely to identify as devotedly religious. That's followed by 63 percent among Rubio supporters and 50 percent for those backing Trump.
Republican Stacey Avis, 36, an account manager who works in the aviation industry and lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was one of those who picked “capitalist” as a good word for her. She's backing Carson, who is in a close race for third in the poll with Rubio.
“I like the idea that what people work hard for, they enjoy, instead of putting it across everyone equally regardless of how hard another person might work,” Avis said. “I think it will encourage some people to not work as hard if they’re piggy-backing off of all the other people that have already worked really hard.”
On the Democratic side, nearly two-thirds of those likely to attend the caucuses say “values voter” fits them, while 59 percent say they'd describe themselves as feminists and 53 percent agree they're “political correct.”
The phrase “gun enthusiast” is a point of separation between the two parties, with 51 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers identifying with it, compared to just 16 percent among those planning to attend the Democratic caucuses.
Trump's supporters are more likely to identify as gun enthusiasts, with 66 percent of his backers agreeing with that phrase. That compares to 59 percent for Cruz, 48 percent for Rubio, and 42 percent for Carson.
While there isn't much overlap in the words likely Democratic and Republican caucus-goers use to describe themselves, one point of agreement is, surprisingly, optimism. In almost equal proportions for both parties, almost nine in 10 say “optimistic” is a good word for them.
The survey, conducted Jan. 7-10 by Selzer & Co. of West Des Moines, Iowa, included 500 likely Republican and 503 likely Democratic caucus participants. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, larger on subgroups. Participants were allowed to select multiple options for words and phrases that described them, so totals don't add to 100 percent.